Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Rattlers make history by knocking off defending champs

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The Tolar Rattlers are in the fourth round of postseason baseball playoffs for the first time in school history.

The Rattlers moved two steps away from advancing to the Class 2A State Baseball Tournament following their 7-6 victory against defending state champion Valley Mills Saturday in Glen Rose.

The victory gave the Rattlers (20-8-2) a two-games-to-one win in the best-of-three series. The teams split the first two games Thursday, May 18, in Whitney, with the Rattlers winning 3-2 and the Eagles winning 6-2.

Tolar advances to meet Alvord (22-6) in the Region 2 semifinals. The Bulldogs advanced by sweeping Windthorst 12-0 and 1-0.

Games 1 and 2 in the best-of-three series will be played in Cleburne at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. If a third game is needed, it will also be played in Cleburne Saturday at a time to be determined.

Valley Mills (28-5) entered the series ranked No. 2 in the state by the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association, while Tolar is No. 9.

The Rattlers won for the 16th time in their past 19 games with one tie. The Eagles had won 14 straight coming into the series.

“With the rich history of our program, we feel honored to build upon what the other teams before us had set as the foundation,” Tolar coach Lance Alford said. “Obviously beating the reigning state champion has given our team a huge boost of confidence. 

“Going back to our schedule, when we played and competed against the likes of Brock, Boyd, Stephenville, Godley, Brownwood, Grandview, Glen Rose and Trinity Valley our confidence grew exponentially.  Knowing that we could push these teams to their limit has been a huge boost.”

The Rattlers jumped out to a 4-0 lead after the first inning before the Eagles came right back with four in the top half of the second. Tolar countered with three more in the bottom to take the lead for good.

But not without some late excitement. The Eagles did not go away quietly, scoring twice in the top of the seventh before Tolar pitcher Jackson LeCluyse and the Rattlers defense squelched the rally.

LeCluyse pitched all seven innings. He surrendered six hits, five earned runs, struck out three, walked three and hit two batters.

Talan Culberson had two of Tolar’s five hits, including a triple, and drove in three runs. Talan Brown also drove in three runs with a hit and a walk.

Culberson had four hits in the series, which included a double and triple, with four RBI. Keaton Morrison had three hits, two walks and two stolen bases.

Class 2A Region 2 Quarterfinals

Game 3

Tolar 7, Valley Mills 6

Tolar wins best-of-three series two games to one

                                       R H E

Valley Mills      040 000 2 - 6 6 1

Tolar                430 000 x - 7 5 2

Tolar hitting: Talan Culberson, 2-for-3, triple, three RBI; Talan Brown, 1-for-2, walk, three RBI; Keaton Morrison, 1-for-3, walk, stolen base; Drake Owens, 1-for-2, RBI; Brock Owens, walk; Jesse Owen, walk, hit by pitch; Jackson LeCluyse, two walks.

Tolar pitching: LeCluyse, seven innings, six hits, six runs (five earned), three strikeouts, three walks, two hit batters.