North forces decisive Game 3 with 1-0 victory over Wakeland
CARROLLTON -- McKinney North found itself in a win-or-go-home situation on Friday night after dropping Game 1 of a best-of-3 set to Frisco Wakeland on Thursday night during the opening round of the postseason.
The Bulldogs got a dominant pitching performance from senior Will Cooper and a solo home run from senior Heath Beasley in the sixth inning to earn a 1-0 victory over the Wolverines from Kelly Field in Carrollton.
"[Cooper] was good," said Jim Gatewood, North head coach. "He has been all year long and we know that when he pitches, it's going to be a low-scoring game."
Wakeland, who dropped to 22-9 on the season with the loss, took Game 1 of the three-game series on Thursday night after senior Hayden Nixon pitched the Wolverines to a 2-1 victory.
The second meeting between the two teams also saw little offensive production from each team.
Cooper tossed a complete game shutout, surrendering just one hit and striking out eight Wakeland hitters during his seven innings of work.
Meanwhile, with Wakeland head coach Barry Rose saving No. 2 starter Willie Schwanke for Game 3, the Wolverines ran sophomore Austin Gehle to the mound to try and earn the series-clinching win.
"[Gehle] pitched a good game," Rose said. "He just made one mistake pitch."
Gehle would receive a tough loss after going six innings and giving up just one run on four hits and two walks.
"[Gehle] threw six solid innings and really competed tonight," Rose said.
Although neither team would score until the home half of the sixth inning, opportunities were there for both schools in the early going.
In the top of the firt, Wakeland got the first two batters on base after junior leadoff hitter Dan Harrington was hit in the foot with a Cooper pitch and Nixon drew a walk in the following at bat.
However, Schwanke was called out on a close pitch with the count full to register Wakeland's first out in the inning.
Cooper then caught Harrington in a rundown between second and third base before tagging him out for the second out. Senior second baseman Justin Swanner would then pop up a two-out pitch to end the inning.
"We had our chances," Rose said. "We just couldn't get anything going."
The bottom of the first was much of the same, as North sophomore second baseman Montana Sadler hit a leadoff single before reaching second on a sacrifice bunt from junior Anthony Herrera.
The Bulldogs would make it runners on the corners with just one out after Beasley hit a one-out single off Gehle.
Wakeland avoided any harm in the inning when sophomore catcher Seth Mullis picked off Sadler at third for the inning's second out and Gehle got the following batter to pop out.
Both pitcher's settled down following the opening inning and Cooper retired nine straight batters following the first-inning walk to Nixon.
"It all starts on the mound," Gatewood said. "[Cooper] didn't get rattled by anything tonight."
The Wolverines would get their first hit off Cooper during the fifth inning on a two-out single from first baseman Johnny Gonzalez, but nothing would come of it after Harrington struck out to end the inning during the following at bat.
Gonzalez, who ended the night 1-for-3 at the plate, would be the only Wakeland batter to register a hit in the game.
"We knew Cooper was good coming into the game," Rose said. "And [Gehle] has thrown well for us this season so we figured it might be a low-scoring game."
Just when the game looked as if it might go to extra innings with both teams scoreless, Beasley belted a one-out homer over the left-centerfield wall to put the Bulldogs ahead by one run in the sixth inning.
"We just wanted to put a run on the board somehow," Gatewood said. "Beasley made good contact and the ball just kept going and going."
Beasley finished the game 2-for-3 at the plate, becoming the only player to register more than one hit on the night.
Gehle would finish out the inning to go the distance for Wakeland and keep the Wolverines in contention for the seventh inning.
Wakeland designated hitter Ryan Perry would give the Wolverines exactly what they needed by reaching base on an error to start the seventh.
However, sophomore shortstop Grant Devore followed up Perry's at bat by popping up a bunt in foul territory, failing to move the runner into scoring position.
"We've got to get a bunt down and get the runner to second there," Rose said.
Cooper then proceeded to retire the next two batters, giving his team a much-needed victory to keep North's season alive for at least one more game.
"We expected a three-game series," Rose said. "We always anticipate a third game in this situation."
The decisive series finale will be played at 1 p.m. on Saturday from the same location, with the winner advancing and the loser ending its season.