The East Texas Pump Jacks may be peaking at just the right time, and as a result the McKinney Marshals won’t have a chance to defend their title.
The Pump Jacks closed out the regular season with a 7-3 victory in McKinney Saturday night, eliminating the Marshals from playoff contention. McKinney entered the contest needing a win and a loss by the Brazos Valley Bombers, who held a slim one-game lead entering the evening. The Bombers did indeed lose to the TCL regular season champion Victoria Generals, but only after they learned that McKinney had lost and Brazos Valley’s postseason berth was secured.
The Jacks close the regular season with a record of 26-19 with one tie, good for second place in the TCL standings. They’ll face the Coppell Copperheads in the first round of the playoffs, beginning Sunday night in Coppell. East Texas will host Game Two on Monday night at historic Driller Park. If a decisive Game Three is necessary, it will take place Tuesday night at Driller. The series is a rematch of the first round of last year’s postseason, when the Copperheads ended the Jacks’ inaugural season with a two-game sweep.
The defending TCL champion Marshals finish the season 18-28, missing the playoffs for the first time in team history.
The Pump Jacks quickly dashed the hopes of Marshals fans Saturday night, scoring four times in the first inning to chase starter Geoffrey Davenport. Greg Fontenot walked to lead off the game, followed by singles from James Stanfield and Brett Nicholas to load the bases. Matt Juengel’s grounder to third was mishandled, resulting in the first run of the game and leaving the bases loaded. When Abel Gonzales grounded into a double play, Stanfield scored but it looked like McKinney might escape further damage. After a walk to Mike Petello, Kevin Hussey doubled to right, scoring two and prematurely ending the night for Davenport.
McKinney got one back in the bottom of the frame off of Chad Sherman, who was making his first start of the season. Sherman began the summer as one of the TCL’s top relievers, but his time on the hill has been limited recently because of nagging ailments.
The score remained 4-1 until the fifth inning, when the teams added a run each. The Jacks run came on successive two-out singles by Nicholas, Juengel, and Gonzales, the last of which drove in a run. The Marshals scored a two-out run of their own in the bottom of the inning to make the score 5-2.
That spelled the end of the evening for Sherman (2-1), who gutted out five innings for the victory. The Bullard native scattered six hits and allowed just two runs. He walked one and struck out two.
The Jacks extended the lead to 6-2 with an RBI single by Juengel in the seventh inning. Fontenot reached on an error to lead off the frame, then moved to second on Stanfield’s sacrifice. One out later, Fontenot stole third and scored on Juengel’s single through the left side.
Dusty Ross pitched a scoreless sixth and seventh, but after a leadoff double in the eighth, it was Stephen Tromblee’s turn on the hill. After an RBI single trimmed the lead to 6-3, Tromblee walked two batters to load the bases with two outs. Curt Resko hit a drive to the left-center gap that looked like it was sure to clear the bases and tie the game… until Mike Petello made a diving, game-saving catch to end the inning.
Ryan Oesterle scored an insurance run in the top of the ninth to extend the lead to 7-3. Oesterle was hit by a pitch to lead off and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Fontenot put down a sacrifice bunt to third, but Mike Walker’s throw was up the line, allowing Oesterle to cross the plate.
Ian Schwalenberg pitched a scoreless ninth to close out the win for the Jacks.
Despite the decisive win, McKinney outhit the Pump Jacks, 12-7, but they left 11 runners on base. East Texas was led by Juengel, who went 2-for-5 with two RBI. Gonzales also drove in two runs. Fontenot and Nicholas both scored a pair of runs.
The Pump Jacks now turn their attention to the Copperheads, who have had the last two days off to prepare for the postseason. East Texas won the season series, taking six of eleven games played. East Texas won the first five games of the series, then Coppell ran off five straight before the Pump Jacks took the final decision.
The last time the two teams met was a doubleheader in Coppell on July 31 that the two teams split. The Copperheads won the opener, 6-4, while the Jacks took the nightcap by a 4-1 score. Both Juengel and Nicholas homered in the second game to spark the victory.
Pump Jacks fans will have several opponents to keep an eye on, including one familiar face. Starting pitchers Rett Varner and Nathan Karns have been among the league’s best this season. Varner had a sub-1.00 ERA for much of the season before finishing with a 1.17, second-best in the league. Karns posted a 1.20 ERA to finish third. When Karns faced the Jacks on July 24, he carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning before a single off his back by Justin Snider. He left the game after seven innings having allowed one hit and two unearned runs, striking out a TCL season-high 15 batters.
More familiar to Jacks fans is Matt Curry, who donned an East Texas uniform in an all-star campaign last summer. Curry joined Coppell for the final two weeks of the season and hasn’t missed a beat, batting .444 with two home runs in nine games.
After the series opener in Coppell Sunday, the series will shift to historic Driller Park Monday night, which will be Team Poster Giveaway Night. The first 500 fans at the ballpark will receive a 2009 Pump Jacks commemorative team poster, featuring photos of this year’s Jacks players, coaches, and even Boomer and Derrick. The poster is presented courtesy of CBS 19 and Hudson Graphics.
Monday also features a new fan favorite promotion, Kids Eat Free Night. All children 12 and under receive a voucher good for a hit dog, chips, and a soft drink, just for attending the game.
If the series is tied at one game apiece after Monday, the Pump Jacks and Copperheads will play a decisive Game Three on Tuesday night at historic Driller Park.
The winner of the series will advance to the TCL Championship Series. The Championship Series will open on Thursday, with Game Two Friday and Game Three, if necessary, on Saturday, August 15.
Tickets for Monday’s Game Two against Coppell are on sale now. Tickets may be purchased at the Pump Jacks office at 1100 Stone Road, Suite 120, in Kilgore, or by phone at (903) 218-GO ET. Tickets can also be purchased prior to the game at the ticket office at historic Driller Park. And as always, tickets are available online – and they can be printed right at home – by visiting www.pumpjacksbaseball.com.