The script wasn't shot exactly as expected, but that didn't mean the production wasn't entertaining Tuesday afternoon at Raider Field.
In a matchup between two teams undefeated through eight games of District 3-5A play, Amarillo High and Randall sent two accomplished seniors to the mound to set the tone for a game that would determine sole possession of the district lead, at least for 72 hours. By the fifth inning though, both right-handers were gone and the scoreboard was lit up on both sides.
But it may have been pitching depth that won in the end, as Amarillo High used five pitchers to survive a 14-11 slugfest and take sole possession of the district lead. With the win, the Sandies (17-7-1, 9-0 in district) clinched the district's first playoff berth since Canyon beat Dumas.
The two teams meet again Friday at 5 p.m. at Amarillo High's Sandie Field, and Randall (16-9, 8-1) has a chance to reclaim a share of the district lead and also clinch a playoff spot. But they'll be hard-pressed to equal the thrills and tension the first game produced.
"You never know what to expect but when two teams like that get together you know it's going to be exciting," AHS coach Jeff Timmons said. "Neither team quit fighting,"
It didn't take long to establish the atmosphere. Randall start Jacob Maiwald entered the game with 27 consecutive scoreless innings to start district play, but that quickly went by the wayside with one out in the top of the first, as Amarillo High's Trevor Andrus and Rhett Maynard hit back-to-back solo home runs to about the same spot in left-center to give the Sandies a 2-0 lead.
Randall got to Amarillo High starter Mason Mays for four runs in the bottom of the second. The Raiders, by contrast, did it with small ball, using three consecutive bunt singles. Maiwald capped the inning with a run-scoring double that made it 4-2.
The Raiders then scored three in the seventh to go up 7-3 and eventually knock out Mays. That led to the Sandies using four relievers, starting in the fifth with Aaron Haase, who struck out the side.
"We made the moves we felt we needed to make," Timmons said. "The good thing is we have guys ready to throw on Friday."
Amarillo High scored four in the fifth to tie it 7-7, with Ryan Westlake's two-run single as the big blow. Haase came in during the bottom of the inning to preserve the tie, and after the Sandies took a 10-7 lead in the sixth thanks in large part to pinch-hitter Jud Jenkins two-run single, he was in line for the win.
Haase assured it in the top of the seventh, when he hit a three-run home run off Kyle Shelburne that stretched the lead to 14-9.
"My arm felt a little uncomfortable so I just cut it off," said Haase of the decision to come off the mound after one inning. "(On the home run) I was just looking for something to drive. I kind of realized when I was halfway down the first base line I hit it out."
But it was still far from over. Amarillo High reliever Maycin Smotherman walked three straight batters with one out and was pulled for Karson Kite. Maiwald grounded into a fielder's choice to bring home a run and Brennan Arroyos dorve in another runs with a single, but Kite got Austin O'Quin to ground to second for the final out.
"We talked often about how the win would play a part, especially with those first two balls going out" Randall coach Cory Hamilton said. "I'm not sayig they were wind-aided, but it played a part. We took advantage of some things, but (the Sandies) took advantage of more."
Amarillo High 14, Randall 11
Mason Mays, Aaron Haase (5), Coby Bolen (6), Maycin Smotherman (7), Karson Kite (7) and Ryan Blackwell. Jacob Maiwald, Eian Schrader (6), Kyle Shelburne (7) and Trevor Scott. W—Haase. L—Schrader. S—Kite. 2B—Amarillo High: Ryan Westlake. Randall: Maiwald, Brennan Arroyos. HR—Amarillo High: Trevor Andrus, Rhett Maynard, Haase. Records: Amarillo High 17-7-1, 9-0. Randall 16-9, 8-1.