It took a spectacular play to end it, but it ended nonetheless.
And it was fitting that Kilgore native Pat McCrory was at the plate. With the tying run on base and his hometown team’s season in the balance, McCrory lined a shot down the third base line that looked like it could go all the way to the corner. But the ball – and the hopes of East Texas fans – was gobbled up by the third baseman, who fired a laser to second to force out Jared Wondra.
And with that, the inaugural season of the East Texas Pump Jacks came to an abrupt end.
The Pump Jacks fell to the Coppell Copperheads Wednesday night by a score of 4-2 in Game Two of their first round playoff series, giving the Copperheads a two-game sweep of the Jacks. Coppell now moves on to the TCL Championship Series, where the Copperheads will try to defend their league title against the winner of the McKinney Marshals-Brazos Valley Bombers battle.
On the other hand, the Jacks return to East Texas to consider everything the organization achieved in its first season… and begin planning for a new and improved sequel in 2009.
Facing elimination, the Pump Jacks had their chances early Wednesday night. They put two runners on base with one out in the first, then loaded the bases with one out in the second. Each time, though, they were unable to take advantage of the opportunities.
The Copperheads didn’t suffer the same struggles. Coppell singled and drew a walk to lead off the third inning, then a base hit by Jaron Shepard drove in the first run of the game. Pump Jacks starting pitcher James Alvarado struck out Travis Sample, but a single by Todd Emr made the score 2-0 Copperheads.
The Jacks loaded the bases again in the fourth when Josh Riley walked, J.D. Dunn reached on an error, and Andrew Nettune walked. With bases loaded and no outs, Brad Hawn grounded into a double play that scored Riley, cutting the lead to 2-1.
Coppell responded immediately, taking advantage of Pump Jacks mistakes. After a leadoff single, the runner advanced to second on a sacrifice and to third on a fly out. It looked like the end of the inning when Alvarado induced an easy grounder to first. But Matt Curry’s toss to Alvarado covering the bag was high, extending the inning and allowing the run to score.
The Pump Jacks trimmed the lead again in the fifth inning – but missed another golden opportunity to break the game open. Wondra led off with a base hit, then moved to second on a balk. One out later, Curry walked, ending the night for Coppell starting pitcher Rhett Varner. After Paige Hodges struck out, Wondra stole third and Riley walked. With the bases loaded and Dunn at the plate, a passed ball allowed Wondra to score. The lead was cut to 3-2, but East Texas stranded two more runners in scoring position.
Coppell added another run in the bottom of the sixth on a walk and an RBI single. Alvarado pitched through the end of the frame, tossing six innings and giving up four runs, only three of them earned. He allowed eight hits and walked two while striking out three.
Luke Burnett came on to pitch the seventh and eighth innings for the Pump Jacks, holding the Copperheads hitless the rest of the way. He struck out three in his Jacks finale.
East Texas didn’t threaten again until the top of the ninth. Nettune lined out to open the inning, and pinch-hitter Logan Moro lofted a fly to center as well. Head coach Stan Phelps reached into his bag of tricks and sent up 6’6” pitcher Steven Martin as a list-ditch pinch-hitter. After picking up two strikes to go down 0-2, Martin worked back to earn a walk. Wondra was hit by a pitch, putting two runners on and bringing the potential go-ahead run to the plate. And off the bat, McCrory’s shot looked like it would answer the Jacks’ prayers, scooting down the line to allow the fleet-footed Wondra to tie the game. But in a flash, Coppell third baseman Bryan Johns made a diving stab at the ball, then threw to second to retire Wondra.
The Copperheads will now wait for a winner of the McKinney-Brazos Valley series, which was forced to a third game with the Bombers’ dramatic extra-inning victory on Wednesday night. The TCL Championship Series will get underway on Friday night, with Game Two slated for Saturday. If a deciding third game is necessary, it will be played on Sunday.
In East Texas, the players will gather one more time on Thursday before scattering back home and preparing to return to college. The Pump Jacks organization will begin preparing for the 2009 season immediately, both on the field and in the stands. Recruiting for next summer will begin very soon, and fans can expect news about player signings as early as the fall. Season ticket holders will soon receive information about renewing their tickets, and other fans will be able to purchase season tickets for 2009 just as quickly.
All the news, developments, and information about the 2009 season, from player signings to potential league expansion, will be available on the Pump Jacks official web site, pumpjacksbaseball.com.