Johnson pinch runner Ryan Matson (14) is congratulated by teammate Connor Gesell (7) as he scores the go ahead run in the seventh inning during a UIL 5A regional quarterfinal playoff baseball game between the Johnson Jaguars and the Churchill Chargers
There is no denying that Churchill has had Johnson’s number on the baseball field for the past five years. Before Thursday the Chargers had defeated the Jags in 9 of the 10 meetings. But the two teams had never met in the playoffs, that was until this weekend.
Churchill swept the Jags during the regular season this year including a 15-3 5-inning run rule game just a little over a month ago. Going into the Regional Quarterfinals series not many could see how Johnson could get past the high powered Chargers, but the Jaguars believed!
Churchill entered Thursday’s game 1 if the best of three game series with 30 wins and just 3 losses. The Chargers were riding a five game win streak and had not lost in the playoffs. Thursday the Chargers sent their ace to the mound with a perfect 11-0 record.
But the Jags also sent their ace Jerod Vick to the mound for a pitchers duel. We may never know if it was just luck, a case of nerves, the pressure or the baseball gods looking down from above and favoring the Jags but the usually steady Churchill group was anything but.
Churchill committed four errors in the game and all of them proved costly as the Jaguars took advantage of the mistakes to score runs in 5 of the 6 innings. Johnson scratched out 6 runs on 8 hits, but it was Vick on the mound that made the difference.
Vick, short of one inning, kept the Chargers from crossing home plate with some timely strikeouts and keeping the Chargers from being able to hit the ball with runners on base. The Johnson junior scattered 7 hits over 7 innings and threw well over 110 pitches for the win.
In the end Johnson walked away with a game 1 6-3 victory over a team that was “suppose-to” walk all over the Jags and as the two teams went home for the night it was Johnson that needed just one more win to move on to the Regional Semifinals. The win handed the Chargers their first loss of the playoffs and their ace his first loss this season.
Game 2 the Chargers would bring their left hander to the mound, the same pitcher that had pitched Churchill to a run rule win over Johnson just a month prior. Johnson brought back senior Tate Huebner to pitch, fresh off his one-day two win performance vs Steele last weekend.
The night of rest did not cure the problems that Churchill had in the field after game one. Seven errors by Churchill was way to much to try and overcome but it was also the Jaguars timely hitting and agresive base-running that proved the difference.
In game 2 on Friday Johnson got on the board first again with 2 in the 3rd inning. Churchill would answer right back with 2 of their own in the bottom of the inning tying the game back up.
Johnson would add two more in the 4th and the Chargers would score one in the 5th and one in the 6th again to square the game even at 4-4. The top of the 7th was led off by Alex Hernandez sending a deep line drive over the left fielders head for a stand up double.
Nick Mireles would slap one just past the shortstop and score pitch runner Ryan Matson on a throwing error. The Jags would get one more to hold a 6-4 lead with just three outs to play.
Huebner would get the first Charger batter in the 7th to ground out back to mound unassisted. A pop fly by the second batter would leave Churchill with just one out. The Chargers would reach first on a throwing error on what looked to be the game ender, but the error (only Johnson’s second of the game) would bring the tying run to the plate.
What happened next is something of legend or a scene from a movie. The next Churchill batter (the pitcher) would hit a hard line drive to right field. What looked to be a sure fire single and would have put runners on first and second or at worst the corners quickly changed.
Because the ball was hit sharply right fielder Nick Mireles charged the ball and after one hop caught and threw a laser back to first where Randy Stuart was there with his foot on the bag ready to receive the offering.
The perfect throw just beat the Churchill batter who went head first into the bag in desperation to be safe but it was the improbable 9-3 ground out play that ended the game.
Johnson had swept the Chargers. Beating two of the best pitchers in the district and city. Beating Churchill in back-to-back games for the first time in the history of Johnson and advancing the Jags to the Regional Semifinals for the first time as well.
While Johnson was upsetting the district 26-5A champs across town another game was going on. The Jags finishing off Churchill advances Johnson to the next round of the playoffs where they would face the winner of the Sharyland vs Eagle Pass game.
Sharyland and Eagle Pass were playing a one game winner take all contest on the south side of San Antonio Friday night and as Johnson celebrated their sweep of Churchill the Rattlers and Eagles were still playing late into the night.
Sharryland, ranked #2 in the State, #6 in the nation and with a 30-1 overall record found themselves tied 9-9 with Eagle Pass, the runner up from 29-5A after 7 innings. It would be Eagle pass completing the upset in the 8th inning when the Sharyland pitcher, with the bases loaded and two outs, balked the game winning run home.
Johnson and Eagle Pass will face each other in the Regional Quarterfinals this coming weekend for a chance to play in the Region IV championship.
Photos from Game 2 will be posted to the Jaguar Pride Photography Website.