Howe 5, Van Alstyne 0
After splitting their two regular season league games, each team winning on the road, the Van Alstyne Panthers and Howe Bulldogs finished the 2017 District 10-3A baseball chase deadlocked at 8-4 and in second place.
To break that tie, and determine the second seed for the playoffs, the two teams met at Veteran’s Field in Sherman on Monday night.
The Bulldogs had the pitching and just enough offense to come away with a 5-0 win, and take that second-place position into the post season.
Howe will play Whitesboro on May 5 back at Veteran’s Field in the bi-district round.
Sophomore pitcher Mason Riggs picked up his second win of the season over the Panthers, pitching four innings, giving up just five hits and striking out four.
Riggs worked out of a base loaded jam in the Van Alstyne third without scoreboard damage.
The Panthers left 11 runners on base during the game and scratched out just one infield hit after that third inning.
Howe got the scoring started in the bottom half of the first as sophomore second baseman Bryce Krantz drew a walk, advanced to second on a ground out to the right side by junior Peyton Reagan, then scored on an RBI single by senior Matt Griffin.
Krantz had two hits and that walk in the contest.
“Bryce had not been hitting the ball that well and we took him out of the lineup for a couple of games and he has hit the ball hard in his last two games,” Howe head coach Heath Grant said.
“I just went through my regular approach and I was seeing the ball early tonight,” Krantz said.
After getting a couple of runners on in the first, the Panthers had a typical Van Alstyne rally going in the third.
Junior catcher Tyler Neshyba singled to open the inning and was subbed out for courtesy runner Cam Montgomery.
Junior Chase Wilson sacrificed Montgomery to second with a bunt back up the right side before junior Rhett Gallagher walked.
Senior Luke Hundt singled to load the bases with just one out.
Riggs came through to douse the rally, getting the final two outs to keep the Panthers off the board.
Singles by senior Jaden Matthews and Krantz set the table in the bottom half of the third, and both runners advanced on a wild pitch.
Matthews scored on another wild pitch and Krantz crossed the plate after a Panther error to give the Bulldogs a 3-0 lead.
Howe added a pair of runs in the fourth as senior Tyler Grisham beat out an infield hit to open the frame.
Riggs bunted to move Grisham to second, but a nice play by Van Alstyne freshman Samuel Tormos at third got Grisham on a fielder’s choice by Matthews.
Senior Brennan Ross reached on a Panther error and he and Matthews scored on a single by Krantz, and another Panther miscue.
Griffin came on in relief for Howe in the fifth and worked the final three innings.
Chase Wilson reached on an error and Tyler Wilson beat out an infield hit with two outs before Griffin got the final out to keep the Panthers scoreless. The big lefty worked through the top of the Van Alstyne lineup twice, getting five strikeouts in his three innings.
“It was a little more than I normally throw in a game, but my pitch count was OK,” Griffin said. “I guess it was a little payback after they beat us at home in that last game.”
The win was big for first-year head coach Grant, and for his seniors.
“It’s always nice to win a rivalry game like this and we played really well tonight,” Grant said. “Can’t say too much about how Riggs pitched, and Matt was equally good.”
“Rivalry games are always special and beating a good team like Van Alstyne, who we have so much respect for, is a good way to go into the playoffs.” Grant said.
Howe will go into those postseason games with a 17-8 season record.
Van Alstyne will play Pottsboro in the bi-district round, the first game on Thursday at Anna with an 8:00 p.m. start.