The East Texas Pump Jacks won more games this summer than last, finished higher in the standings, and earned home-field advantage for the playoff series in team history.
Now the Pump Jacks have to work doubly hard to achieve a different playoff result.
The Jacks opened the 2009 postseason with a loss in Coppell to the Copperheads, 7-6. East Texas had roared into the lead with a four-run sixth inning, but two Copperheads runs in the bottom of the eighth doomed the Jacks.
Down one game to none, the scene shifts to historic Driller Park for the remainder of the best-of-three series. Game Two will take place Monday night, and the Jacks must win to force a decisive Game Three on Tuesday. Lose Monday night and these Pump Jacks will suffer the same fate as their inaugural season brethren – a first round ouster at the hands of the Copperheads.
East Texas held a 6-5 lead into the eighth inning, when Jared Kernodle hit Marcellous Biggins to put the leadoff runner aboard. One out later, Jeff Emens hit a sinking liner down the left field line that escaped Kevin Hussey’s diving attempt and scurried to the wall. Biggins crossed the plate to tie the game on what amounted to the second triple of the night for Emens. Former Pump Jack Matt Curry lofted a sacrifice fly to left-center that put the Copperheads back on top.
Coppell held a 4-2 lead after five innings of play when the Jacks charged back into the game. Hussey and Ben Woodchick drew one-out walks, and one out later, Greg Fontenot’s free pass loaded the bases. Russell LaFleur greeted new reliever David De La Chappell triple to the wall in left-center, clearing the bases and putting East Texas on top. A single by Brett Nicholas plated LaFleur to stake the Jacks to a 6-4 lead.
The Copperheads trimmed the lead to 6-5 in the home half of the sixth in Kernodle’s first inning of work. A two-out single by Preston Springer scored Emens, who had tripled earlier in the frame.
The home team got on the board first, scoring three in the bottom of the third. After threatening in each of the first two innings, the Copperheads touched starter David Rollins by rallying for three with two outs.
East Texas answered with runs in the fourth and fifth before taking over in the sixth. Matt Juengel led off the fourth inning with a single and took second on a groundout by Abel Gonzales. Back-to-back singles by Mike Petello and Hussey scored Juengel to put the Jacks on the board.
In the fifth inning, Fontenot led off with a single, followed one out later by a Nicholas walk. After Juengel struck out, a wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position. Gonzales came through with a single to left, scoring Fontenot, but Nicholas was cut down at the plate to end the inning.
The late heroics meant that neither starting pitcher picked up a decision. Rollins scuffled through five innings, allowing four runs, two of them earned, on six hits. The TCL regular season strikeout champion whiffed five and walked four.
Coppell starter Nathan Karns was touched for five earned runs in 5.2 innings, walking six.
Kernodle (0-1) took the loss after allowing three runs on three hits in three innings of work.
The Pump Jacks outhit Coppell, 10-9, and drew seven walks to the Copperheads’ four. Every Jacks hitter reached base by hit or walk, led by Nicholas, who posted three hits and a walk in four at-bats. Hussey reached base three times with a single and two walks, scoring once and driving in a run. Fontenot scored twice, going 1-for-3 with a walk.
Monday night, the Pump Jacks will send to the mound Mark Haynes (3-3), who has been a gutsy performer in key situations down the stretch. The Copperheads are expected to pitch Rett Varner (4-2), who finished second in the TCL in ERA with a 1.17 mark.
Monday night will be Team Poster Giveaway Night at historic Driller Park. 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.