Dodd City’s special year stops in semis

ROUND ROCK —There had been a magical quality to Dodd City’s season. So when the Hornets loaded the bases in the seventh and down by three runs, it wasn’t necessarily a terrible place to be.

“Thought there was something special going on there,” senior catcher Jaylen Wallace said. “But then again it’s been a special season the whole way.”

The ending didn’t turn out Dodd City’s way however, and Stamford held on to defeat the Hornets, 4-1, in a Class 1A semifinal at Dell Diamond on Wednesday afternoon.

Stamford (24-1) will face Fayetteville (20-6), which defeated Price Carlisle 5-4 in the first semifinal, today at 9 a.m. for the state championship. The Bulldogs had lost the last two years in the semifinals.

It was the best season in program history for Dodd City (27-8), which before last year had never been past the area round. But a strong core of returning Hornets advanced to the region final in 2011 and then made it a step further this season.

“We gave it all we had. We had a great season,” Dodd City head coach Kevin Darwin said. “We were one of four teams left playing this week. You can’t be disappointed with that.”

The Hornets were able to get the go-ahead run to the plate on a lead-off single by Hunter Brent, a one-out walk by Connor Reed and Wallace was hit by a pitch. But Kyle Barnett was able to stave off the comeback attempt by striking out Walker Phillips and getting Landon Darwin to ground out.

“That’s as good a shot as we were going to have at it,” Darwin said.

Dodd City’s lone run came in the sixth when Darwin tripled to right center and scored on a groundout by Landon Liebel. But Stamford answered in the bottom half to regain a three-run lead on an RBI triple by Austin Alvarado, who had three hits, just inside the first-base line.

“That was a big run there,” Darwin said. “It added a lot for them and took pressure off them.”

The Hornets had a chance to score in the fourth after Liebel reached on a one-out single and Kyle Turner singled with two outs. Brent hit a ball that first baseman Ty McLemore had to make a running catch with his back to the plate to end the inning.

“That was two runs,” Darwin said. “Definitely one.”

Wallace eventually reached third after walking to start the game but was stranded there. Hunter Vaught had two of Dodd City’s six hits.

After Stamford put multiple runners on base in the first three innings but couldn’t score, the Bulldogs finally got on the board in the fourth.

Dalton Mathis was hit by a pitch and Hagen Hutchinson, who singled to right, took second on the throw to third. Blake Burnett hit a sacrifice fly to center field and Jessie Ramos reached on an error that allowed Hutchinson to score.

Stamford took a 3-0 lead when Ramos stole second, took third as the throw went into center and scored on a wild pitch.

“You can only dodge so many,” Darwin said. “We dodged several before they finally got something together.”

Darwin had worked out of jams up to that point. The Bulldogs loaded the bases with one out in the first but Darwin picked off courtesy runner Daniel Medina at first and then struck out Marion Gonzales with the next pitch.

In the second inning he trapped Gus West off third on a comebacker for the final out of the inning. And in the third the first two Bulldogs reached on infield singles but were stranded after a pair of flyouts and a diving catch by Reed at second that saved a run.

“They kept letting us hang around. They got in those situations but we did a good job getting out of them,” Darwin said. “It was a manageable game to get back in it.”