ARLINGTON - Years from now when Ennis Lions baseball players and coaches tell stories about when they played in the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, it’s going to be bittersweet.
Sure, they're going to say they played and coached in a Major League Baseball stadium, but they may not want to focus too much on what happened in that big league ballpark.
They’ll know whom to blame when they skirt the issue of who won, the Mesquite Skeeters.
They’ll tell stories how a Class 5A program like Mesquite came back on Class 4A Ennis and scored five runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to win 7-6.
Ennis coach Kevin Kalinec put the defeat in perspective.
“For some kids, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play in this ballpark so I hope that is what they will take out of having played here,” he said following the game. “Our goal in this game was to play every kid and we did. It’s going to be something they're going to have for the rest of their lives.”
It hasn’t happened for Ennis to lose a ballgame like that - that in itself was rare.
Among the other rare things that night, there was no rain and it was sunny.
As far as Ennis goes, it took a team photo before a non-district game on grass that normally is prepped for the Texas Rangers.
They played every varsity player, including some that were bumped up from the junior varsity.
They got to see Rusty Collins hit a homerun that carried about 380 feet.
It was Collins’ second game in as many years played at the Rangers Ballpark, the season before going 1-4, earning a couple of RBI.
“This was the first time I hit a homerun here; I’m glad I made the most of that opportunity,” Collins said of a stadium that opened April 1, 1994. “The count was 3-0 and the pitcher threw a fast ball right where I wanted it and I just kept looking at the ball hoping it wouldn’t go foul.”
As the contest went on, it did take on the characteristics of an Ennis win.
Lions pitcher Chris Lewis was on his game, fanning five Mesquite batters and scattering as many hits in what appeared to be a complete game.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Lewis struck out the leading batter but then faced the top of the Skeeters lineup.
Then eveything that could go wrong did.
“It was disappointing and I had been struggling a bit coming into the game,” said Lewis, who then went to play in outfield. “But, I will cherish some good things that happened for the rest of my life.”
In last year’s game, Lewis had the opportunity to pitch in one inning of relief.
“This was a whole lot more fun because I got to play a lot more; there will be some things I will take with me, that is one of them,” Lewis said.
Kalinec hopes the Rangers Ballpark incident will be a footnote to the 2008 season.
He said everybody on the team may one day tell stories about having played in Arlington, but the capper will be that they won district or perhaps went deep in the playoffs.
Who will remember Arlington if Ennis is still playing in June.
In the seventh, Lewis made good on the first batter as he struck out Jarrett Zmolik, but then everything went downhill from there as he walked leadoff hitter Trey Evans. Then Jeremy Christian, Casey Goode, Ross Dobbins and Zach Good each had consecutive singles that bounced into open space in the outfield.
Ennis reliever Nathan Dixon came in with one out but Mesquite’s Josh Rutledge hit into a fielder’s choice that enabled Good to score on a passed ball at the plate for the win.
Mesquite was the first team to score in the game during the second inning on one earned run by Zmolik. In the fifth inning, Mesquite scored one run when Goode hit an outfield double to score Christian, who had gotten on base with a single. Ennis still led 4-2 at that point.
That was as much offense as the Skeeters had shown as compared to Ennis, which scored in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings using a multitude of subs.
The scoring began when Ennis’ Collins belted a left field home run to begin the fourth inning.
Edgar Ortiz began the fourth inning when he hit a single.
Weston Montgomery was then hit by a pitch, which put runners at first and second.
Despite facing a new pitcher, Lewis was able to hit a two-run double to score Montgomery and pinch runner Clayton Mummert for a 3-1 lead.
Lewis advanced to third and home plate on consecutive wild pitches to then give Ennis a three-run lead.
Mesquite coaches made even more changes at the mound but Skeeter pitchers continued to struggle, as the sixth inning would show.
Ennis’ Mummert was hit by a pitch to begin the inning. He crossed home plate when teammate Jon Lewis hit a triple. Lewis himself scored on a wild pitch to give what appeared to be a safe 6-2 lead going into the bottom of the seventh.
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