by Matt Antonic
Maybe it was playing two games in a row, five consecutive hours, that had the Keller Aces struggling to put runners across the plate at Railroad Park for the Texas Season Opener. It certainly could have had something to do with the fact that well-struck balls kept finding their way into the glove of Texas Edge players.
Whatever the reason, the Aces found itself trailing 7-2 in the bottom of the fifth inning Saturday.
The word momentum gets thrown around plenty in sports, but it becomes hard to question once it plays out in reality. It starts with a walk or a defensive error or, in the case of the Aces Saturday, an inside the park home run that led to an 8-7 victory.
A couple of walks later and all of the sudden the floodgates were opening. Keller was getting men on base and into scoring position.
With the bases loaded, Blaine Hamilton had his chance, and he delivered. Hamilton unloaded a two-run single to right field, and just like that the Aces had pulled to within one run. The energy was palpable now.
“I knew I needed to do something special,” Hamilton said. He credited some of the Aces batters who had been struggling during the game getting clutch hits for the extra inspiration.
The Edge had made stellar defensive plays all day, but a letdown came at one of the worst possible times. Another hit for the Aces had the Edge throwing the ball home, only for it to get past the catcher and allow the tying run to score. The fans on the blue side of the field were as loud and spirited as they had been all day long.
Blake Lopez stepped to the plate and was not about to let the rally end with the bat in his hands. He knocked another base hit, scoring the winning run and capping off a remarkable six- run rally in the fifth inning.
In normal circumstances, the walk-off would result in a wild celebration among fans, players and coaches alike. Only this time, there was no functioning scoreboard to keep fans alert of the score. It took a moment for coaches and umpires to confer, only to realize that run number eight was the winning run and that the game was over.
It was a delayed celebration, but the Aces weren’t bothered, pouring out of the dugout to hug and high five. The Aces had played two games on the day and earned two hard fought victories. The bats had woken up at the game’s most crucial juncture. For coach Jeff Slone, it was more than enough to call the day a success.
"We knew we had the first game, and then we came into the second game and the bats weren’t going the way we wanted them,” he said. “We just said to keep going out there and do what you know. Be intentional and it’ll happen.”
It was the Aces first tournament of the season, so one wouldn’t be able to fault a lack of fundamentals on display. Saturday was the opposite for the Edge and the Aces. The game featured hard hit balls and extra base hits spread out through five exciting innings. It also featured a handful of defensive gems and crisp plays. Sloan was impressed by the showing from both teams coming out of the scholastic sports season.
“There really weren’t a lot of errors, and out here on dirt guys are worried about how the ball is going to bounce on them,” Slone said. “Man I feel like guys are in a good spot right now."
Hamilton agreed with the assessment. It was smart and confident baserunning that allowed the Aces to be in the spot they were to finish the rally. “I was gonna go two on that hit,” he said. “But when I looked to go, I thought it was enough to get my teammates in, and that I was going to be able to go (to second base) anyway on the steal.”
A day under the perfect spring sun saw two exciting wins for the Aces of Keller, who will now ready themselves for action on Sunday. A confident Hamilton said they would definitely be ready.
"The wins are going to be able to get us ready to play tomorrow, rain or not,” he said. ‘We’re going to come out and do our best and I’m going to rally the team.”
13uD2 roundup -- The Aces ended up with the No. 4 seed overall, with the top three spots going to the Dallas Trojans, TCR Bobcats and Texas Forge Orange. The title game is scheduled for 4 p.m. at Breckinridge Park.