Mustangs walk off with diamond history
Game-winning hit by Olveda clinches deepest Life advance ever
An incredible comeback against a traditional baseball powerhouse has the Life High School Waxahachie Mustangs scaling even more heights in the school’s playoff history.
Mere hours after securing survival with a road split on Friday at Celina’s shiny new baseball abode, the Mustangs came home on Saturday and stunned the Class 4A No. 6-ranked Bobcats for a 6-5 comeback triumph at Mustang Field with a two-out rally in the third and deciding game of their 4A Region II area series.
Life (13-13-3) won its first best-of-3 baseball series in program history just one week after defeating Dallas Pinkston, 11-0, in a single-game matchup.
Catcher Joey Olveda walked it off for Life with a base hit in the bottom of the seventh inning, scoring pinch runner Mitch Mamola from second base as the Mustangs advanced to play Melissa in a Region II quarterfinal series starting on Friday.
“Amazing series against Celina. Nothing but respect to them!!! Round three, here we come,” tweeted an excited senior team leader, Ethan Starks.
“This is one of the biggest wins in school history. To come out on top against a powerhouse in the likes of Celina is just incredible,” said Life School Athletic Director, Scott Thrush. “Nobody deserves this more than this group of young men and coaches. I wish our team the best of luck against another top notch program in Melissa.”
Mustangs Game 3 starter Dominic Ortiz hung in long enough to get a complete-game victory at the absolute end of his rope, finishing up his last batter over his 110-pitch count limit. Ortiz spread out seven Celina singles while allowing one earned run on the day.
Celina’s Anthony Boyle got two quick outs in the home half of the seventh, and the rubber game seemed headed for extras with a 5-5 deadlock.
But Justin Keys worked a walk, Ortiz followed with an infield single, and Olvedo lifted a flare into center to score Mamola, running for Ortiz, from second base with the winner. Olvedo was mobbed by his teammates in the infield, and Life was indeed alive.
The Mustangs opened the series by driving all the way from Gingerbread City to Rollertown for a Friday doubleheader after Life’s field, slated originally to open the series on Thursday, was deemed unplayable from rain earlier in the week.
The host Bobcats, steeped in history with one baseball title in 2002 and eight more in football, took a 9-5 win in Game 1 on Friday at the brand-new Bobcat Ballpark.
But in Game 2, Life righthander Starks was the stopper the Mustangs needed. Starks allowed two hits as Life pulled out a 2-1 win in Game 2 to avoid a Celina sweep.
Olveda, the Game 3 hero, came through in Game 2 as well as he supplied the go-ahead squeeze bunt in the top of the seventh inning, bringing in Tahir Williams from third base. Starks set down the Bobcats in order in the bottom of the seventh to send the series back to Waxahachie.
Game 1 was a lesson in perseverance for Life, as Celina (27-9) scored five times in the top of the third and went on to grab the early series advantage.
Life starter Chase Shipman took the opening loss after allowing five straight CHS batters to reach in the third. Mamola was solid in relief before exiting with what appeared to be a finger injury with two outs in the sixth, and Williams closed out the game.
Keys gave the Mustangs an early edge with a leadoff homer over Celina’s huge 289-foot-deep fence in left field in the bottom of the second, but the Bobcats plated five runs in the following half-inning and never trailed again.
Elyjah Berry walked and later stole home in the third inning as Keys got himself purposefully caught in a rundown between first and second base long enough, and Starks singled and scored in the same inning.
In the bottom of the seventh, Life cut the final margin in half as Berry, who had been called out after a foul tip, got a new lease on life and doubled in two runs, signaling to the Collin County exurbans that the Mustangs were not going away easily this particular weekend.
All three games of the Mustangs’ region quarterfinal series against Melissa will be played at Irving MacArthur High School. Game 1 will be at 5 p.m. on Friday, with Game 2 set for noon on Saturday. If a third game is needed, it will follow Game 2.