All-Stars shine brightly in district championship
By Brady Keane BCC Contributor
Picture courtesy Patty Cardenas
Members of the Hill Country All Stars included, front row, Brady Boyd, Brock Cardenas, Ayden Blalock, Cord Koenig, Wylden Hubbard and Gage Brown; second row, Cody Wooten, Garet Lloyd, Tommy Cardenas, Trace Decker, Trapper Pannell, Mason Phair and Gunnar Brown; and , back row, Manager Mike Cardenas and Coaches Lance Taylor, Jeff Pannell and Epi Cardenas.
The Hill Country All-Stars 11-12 year old Major Division baseball team became the first team from Bandera in several years to win the District 21 All-Star tournament, defeating Uvalde by a score of 11-7 in last Thursday's championship game. In a back and forth contest, the Hill Country All-Stars pulled through in the end after trailing for much of the game, and ended the tournament with a record of 4-0.
"I'm proud of those boys because they fought and never gave up," Coach Epi Cardenas said. "Hopefully we can continue fighting and win some more games.
After winning their first three games by a combined 25 runs, the Hill Country All-Stars came into the game against Uvalde with ace pitcher Tommy Cardenas on the mound, looking to continue the streak of dominance. In the first inning, Uvalde jumped out to a 1-0 lead with a leadoff homerun before Cardenas settled down and retired the next six batters he faced.
Although the All-Stars managed to reach base in the first inning only on a walk by Wylden Hubbard, the high powered Hill Country offense got back to work in the second inning, and after Mason Phair got on base with a walk, Gage Brown pinch ran at first base and used his speed to score on a close play at the plate.
Although the game remained calmed down on the scoreboard for a few innings, the Hill Country All-Stars had several line drive hits that almost led to runs. Brock Cardenas led the way with several hard hits at the plate, and reached base in every plate appearance on the night. Ayden Blalock hit a line drive right back at the pitcher that got him on first base, and Cord Koenig hit a rocket to right center field that led to a controversial play at the plate in the fourth inning. However, after an offensive awakening by Uvalde in the bottom of the inning, the All-Stars trailed 4-1 at the end of the fourth.
Facing adversity late in the game, the Hill Country All-Stars did what all great teams have to do at some point, and fought back from a difficult deficit. Trapper Pannell got things going in the fifth inning with a double, and Tommy Cardenas beat out an infield single to put two runners on base for Phair.
With the All-Stars still trailing 4-1, Phair smashed a three run homerun over the left field wall to tie the game.
"The first thing that went through my mind was how great it felt to hit it over," Phair said. "When I realized I tied the game up I was so proud to have gotten our team back in the game."
Not only did the homer by Phair tie up the game, it also ignited an offense that had been scoreless for three full innings.
Trace Decker brought in Brock Cardenas with a sac fly, and Brady Boyd brought in Gunnar Brown and Cody Wooten on a two RBI single to give the All-Stars a 7-4 lead. Tommy Cardenas brought in two more runs on a double that scored Boyd and Garret Lloyd, and after the explosion of offense, the Hill Country All-Stars were sitting in prime position to walk away with a victory.
After Tommy Cardenas held Uvalde to just one run in the bottom of the fifth and finished with six strikeouts in five innings pitched, the sixth and final inning saw the Hill Country offense add the final blow. Brock Cardenas and Gage Brown walked to open up the inning, and Brady Boyd drove in his third and fourth RBI's of the night with a double that gave the All-Stars an 11-6 lead.
With Cardenas over his pitch count limit on the mound, Gunnar Brown came in to get the close for the Hill Country All-Stars and wasted no time ending the game. After striking out the leadoff batter, Brown made an outstanding snag on a comeback line drive, and got the final out on a popup to Trace Decker.
"It felt good to win it all and come home as champs," Tommy Cardenas said.
The Hill Country All-Stars, managed by Mike Cardenas and coached by Lance Taylor, Jeff Pannell, and Epi Cardenas, became the first team from Bandera in several years to move on to the Texas West Sectional. The All-Stars first game at the Sectional tournament was in Eagle Pass yesterday, and we will have coverage of their success in the Courier again next week.