AP NEWS

Reagan turns away O’Connor for sweep

May 4, 2019

Reagan knew O’Connor was destined for a rally Friday at North East Sports Park.

Unlike on Thursday when the Rattlers nearly frittered away a five-run lead, they had a response and eliminated the Panthers 10-4 to sweep their best-of-3 Class 6A first-round playoff series.

The Rattlers held off O’Connor, 6-5, the night before after leading 6-1 through five innings.

Friday, Reagan led 8-1 heading into the bottom of the fifth before O’Connor cut the lead in half with three runs. Reagan added two in the seventh to secure a second-round spot.

“We knew they were going to come back fighting at us,” Reagan junior third baseman Luke Hoggatt said. “We just had to keep playing and keep the energy up.”

Their response prevented the Rattlers from playing a winner-take-all third game on Saturday.

“You don’t know what could happen in game three,” Reagan coach Chans Chapman said. “We’ve been there before where it’s worked out for us and where it hasn’t worked out for us. That’s what we preach to (our team). We wanted to end it tonight because we didn’t want to get to tomorrow. When it comes to one game, you never know what can happen.”

The top-ranked Rattlers (29-5-1) mowed through five pitchers and pounded out 10 hits.

Junior center fielder Zane Raba was 2 for 4 with a double. He reached base four times. More impressively, he did this with a broken left hand. Raba sported a splint and pad when he batted and played outfield. He wrapped a cast around his injured hand when he was on base.

“It was a little uncomfortable, but you just have to play through it and be there for the team,” Raba said. “That’s what I did today.”

Raba said a pitching machine delivered wildly as he squared around to bunt during practice Monday. The ball hit his knuckle on his left ring finger.

“He’s a fighter; I will tell you that much,” Hoggatt said of Raba. “That kid, it doesn’t matter who it is, he has that I’m-going-to-beat-you mentality, and there’s nothing you can do about it. He’s going to compete out there with everything he has. It doesn’t matter if he’s on one leg or not. He’s going to compete.”

Raba set it up early for the Rattlers. He opened the third with a double to left. He stole third and scored on a wild pitch. Hoggatt followed with a sacrifice fly to center that scored Stayton Ankrom as the Rattlers took a 2-0 lead.

Cal Martin’s two-RBI single made it 4-0 in the fourth.

O’Connor cut it to 4-1 in the bottom of the fourth with Isaac Longoria’s single that brought in Cade Collenback.

Reagan extended the lead to 8-1 in the fifth. Hoggatt and JT Moeller scored on two errors on the same play. Britt Moore followed with a run-scoring double, and Raba had an RBI single.

O’Connor rallied in the bottom of the fifth by scoring three runs with two outs. Reagan starter Will Carsten was one strike away from ending the inning, but Sammy Castillo doubled to left-center. Kevin Potts singled him in. The Panther loaded the bases and Mauro Bustamante drew a walk to score Potts.

The Panthers chased Carsten after he went 4 2/3 innings and recorded nine strikeouts.

O’Connor (21-11) made it 8-4 on reliever Jared Sherer’s wild pitch, but the Panthers got no more.

Sherer struck out the side in the sixth.

“He goes in there and strikes out the side, and that’s a big momentum-changer right there,” Chapman said.

Reagan added two in the top of the seventh on Hoggatt’s single that scored two.

Sherer retired O’Connor in order in the seventh, finishing with a strikeout.

“They hopped on us that one inning, but coach told us to add runs,” Raba said. “We came up there and took good approaches at the plate and scored some runs.”

dhinojosa@express-news.net

Twitter: @hinojosa_david