Olney, De Leon battle in pitcher's duel
After winning three of their past four games, the Olney Cubs seem primed for a successful Region II District II run as they open districts against arch rival Archer City Monday.
The Cubs come off a disappointing 3-2 loss to De Leon, who Olney coach Kevin Bartley said featured the fastest pitcher he has seen this season, but fell in the eighth inning of a pitcher's dual.
"We finally caught up to him," Bartley said. "We had seen him several times and they finally got it in their heads that they could hit him. It was just keeping their confidence up and not being discouraged when they see a pitcher like that."
Kevin Yeager, De Leon's stunning sophomore pitcher, and Olney senior Malik Garza kept the game scoreless through the fifth inning, when Yeager put two on the board with a RBI liner to right. Garza would get revenge for Yeager's go-ahead hit by breaking Yeager's no-hitter in the sixth. Garza's hit seemed to reinvigorate the Cubs, who would later tie the game on RBI's from Junior Acuna and Porter Elliot. Garza said switching to a lighter bat, a trick he used against a similar pitcher during last weekend's Gorman Baseball Tournament, allowed him to catch up to Yeager's speed.
"We hit the ball a lot towards the end," Garza said. "We got used to him, started getting some hits and started getting some runs. Growing up, I got used to fast pitchers. We played Cross Plains on Saturday and I was hitting the ball, but was not hitting my spots so I got a lighter bat and started hitting my spots."
Garza remained on the mound into the eighth, but began losing control and walking De Leon batters into scoring position. With the bases loaded, another walk decided the game. As it goes with most high school sports, everything until next week's game against Archer City has been merely a prelude to district play. Although disappointed with the loss, Garza quickly focused his attention to next Monday and said he looks forward to seeing the Wildcats, who eliminated Olney from the playoffs in 2016.
"District should be fun," Garza said. "Our first district game, against Archer City, I'm waiting for it ... We're Olney and I don't think they like us. It's been a rivalry since my freshman year. I'm ready to see them. I am looking to see what they got."