“That’s what champions do.”
That is what Glen Rose head coach Kenny Toney said following Tuesday’s ninth inning, 7-6 walk-off win against Gatesville.
Toney reiterated his statement following another ninth inning victory against China Spring, 4-3.
With this pair of victories, Glen Rose remained undefeated in District 7-3A and a Gatesville victory over West on Monday guaranteed the Tigers the outright district championship.
The run to No. 1 continued on Tuesday when Gatesville made the trip to Glen Rose, and it took a pair of comebacks to claim the win.
The Hornets jumped out early on Immanuel Morales, scoring three in the top of the first and adding another in the third.
Trailing 4-0 in the bottom of the third, Glen Rose responded with an RBI single by Ty Taylor that plated Shelby Junge to put the Tigers on the board.
Derek Thompson followed suit with an RBI base knock to score Colt Plaster and the inning was capped off with a two-out, two-RBI single by Dylan Rodriguez to knot the score at 4-4.
In the bottom of the fifth, Thompson put the Tigers on top with a leadoff big-fly over the right-center wall.
With two outs in the top of the seventh, Gatesville was able to tie the game on a big swing over the left-center wall off Thompson.
But Glen Rose would not be denied.
Gatesville tacked on the go-ahead run — and surrendered an insurance run by attempting a suicide squeeze bunt with a runner on third and one out but Taylor applied the tag at the plate — to make the score 6-5 headed to the bottom of the ninth.
Taylor opened the inning with a base hit to right field, and following a strikeout, Jacob Goebel reached on an error which allowed Taylor to move to third.
With two strikes, pinch hitter Morales sent a line drive to left field to plate Taylor to tie the contest.
With runners at first and second, Rodriguez made his second big play of the night with a fly ball to left field which was misplayed by the left fielder, allowing Goebel to score from second to end the game.
“When I pulled (Immanuel), I told him not to get comfortable because I knew we might need him to hit,” said Toney. “Dylan, just like all of our guys, is a competitor. This was a big game and to come in and get a big RBI was a good job. I couldn’t really ask for anything more.”
Morales started the game for the Tigers and tossed four innings and allowed four runs on seven hits and a walk, while striking out four.
“Immanuel was tough to hit when he kept the ball down,” said Toney. “It looked to me like his arm was bothering him. Then Derek came in and was struggling with his slider, which is his best pitch. But the competitor in him got the job done.”
Thompson pitched the final five innings allowing one earned run on three hits and two walks. He struck out 10.
Glen Rose was set to host China Spring on Friday, but weather forced them to move the game to Saturday before poor field conditions backed it to Monday.
The Cougars came to visit and were just three outs away from handing Glen Rose its first loss of the district season.
China Spring took a 3-0 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning, but a two-RBI double by RJ Nowak — which plated Goebel and Morales — gave the Tigers their first runs of the game.
In the bottom of the seventh, Taylor reached base on an error and following a pop out, courtesy runner Kevin Brooks stole second base and scored on an errant throw and a bobble in center field to tie the contest.
More ninth inning magic awaited the Tigers.
Thompson reached on a base knock and Goebel reached on an error while Brooks — running for Thompson — went to third.
Morales was intentionally walked, which once again set up Rodriguez with the game on the line.
“I always tell them to put the ball in play and force the other team to make the play,” said Toney.
Rodriguez sent a chopper to the third baseman and an errant throw allowed Glen Rose to claim the victory.
“He put it in play and they couldn’t make the throw,” continued Toney.
Thompson threw the entire nine innings on 120 pitches.
“He wanted the ball,” said Toney. “He was even willing to go another inning if we needed him to.”
Thompson K’d 11 batters and allowed only one earned run.
“China Spring was hanging on by a thread and needed a win to stay in playoff contention," said Toney. "We could’ve stopped and lay down, but we kept battling and that’s all I could ask for. I’m not going to turn down a win just because it isn’t pretty.”
The Tigers have locked up the 7-3A championship and a first round bye in the playoffs. They were trying to remain undefeated in district on Tuesday when they traveled to Hillsboro. The regular season finale against West is back in Glen Rose, with the first pitch slated for 7:30 p.m.