By Bryan Sutcliffe
Special to the Press
The Prosper Eagles traveled to Smothermon Field in Frisco having already clinched their playoff spot, but that fact didn’t reduce the Eagles’ desire for a win in the final game of the regular season. A win would have clinched a winning overall record, a winning league record and a measure of revenge against the Frisco team that beat Prosper 7-6 at Prosper a month ago. The Eagles would go without all three after another 7-6 loss.
Prosper’s playoff spot was already secured in no small part due to an improved defense. In the first thirteen games of the season Prosper committed 28 errors. In their most recent fourteen games they limited the total to 10. In a surprising return to their defensive struggles, Prosper (14-14 overall, 7-7 district 9-4A) committed a season high six errors to allow Frisco (16-13 overall, 6-8 district 9-4A) to win with only four hits.
It was a defensive miscue by Frisco that allowed Prosper to take an early 1-0 lead in the first. Senior Brandon Grudzielanek singled and stole second base with two outs. He would end up at third after walks to senior Lance Brooks and junior Dean Smith loaded the bases for sophomore Steele Walker. A pitch by Frisco starter Johnny Sitgreaves got away from the catcher allowing Grudzielanek to score. Brooks would be caught in a rundown between third and home after thinking of trying to make it a two run miscue, but he was tagged out to end the inning.
Senior Brandon Gilson started for Prosper in search of his fifth straight winning start. Gilson pitched into the sixth inning and allowed four runs, but only two were earned. A leadoff walk by Gilson of Chandler Blake turned into an unearned run when Blake scored on a two out fielding error in the third to tie the game at one. The scored remained 1-1 until the top of the third. With runners at first and second (both reaching with two outs), Brandon Grudzielanek turned in his first district extra base hit of the year - a two RBI triple that gave Prosper a 3-1 lead.
A Brad Hughey homer cut the Eagle lead to 3-2 where it remained into the bottom of the sixth. Leadoff hitter Matt Goudie reached on an infield error and was wiped out on a fielder’s choice grounder that batter Zach Jenkins prevented from ending the inning as a double play. A Jake Stacy single and two outfield errors later, Frisco had two more runs and Gilson was out of the game. He left on the short end of the 4-3 score after 5 2/3 innings. He yielded two hits, struck out eight and walked two. Senior Jace Vines relieved Gilson and struck out Brad Hughey to end the inning.
Finding themselves suddenly three outs from a defeat, Prosper’s offense went to work. The strategy was one of patience. Senior Zach Kubala walked to lead off the inning and was moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jace Vines in his first at bat of the game. Senior Aaron Maxey then delivered an RBI single to tie the game on an 0-2 pitch. Maxey’s hit streak grew to eight games on the play. Junior Tyler Webb and Grudzielanek reached on walks of their own to load the bases for Lance Brooks. Brooks hit a hard grounder to shortstop, off of whose glove the ball ricocheted into the outfield to bring home two and give the Eagles a 6-4 lead. Prosper carried that lead to the seventh.
Vines retired the first Frisco hitter by strikeout and then ran into command issues. A single by Jordan Gibbs was bookended by a pair of walks to load the bases for Brennen Fischer. Vines delivered a strikeout to bring up Zach Jenkins with two outs and the bases full. Jenkins lined a single to right to score two and move the winning run to third. In a somewhat fitting end to the game Frisco’s Skylar Thomas rolled a ground ball to third base where the ball was misplayed allowing the winning run to score.
Prosper now heads to the playoffs on a two game losing streak. They will face the Highland Park Scots, co-champions of district 10-4A and winners of the league’s top seed by way of a coin toss. Highland Park enters the postseason playing their best baseball of the year during a nine game win streak. The teams have elected to play a best-of-three series starting 7:30 pm Thursday night at Highland Park followed by game two 7:30 pm at Prosper Friday. A deciding game would be played Saturday at 2 p.m. at a neutral site if necessary.
All Prosper postseason games will be aired live and archived at Sportsgram.net.
Bryan Sutcliffe is the play by play voice of Prosper athletics for the Sportsgram Network