You’d be hard pressed to find a better series across the state than Round Rock against top-ranked Cypress Ranch in the regional quarterfinals.
The Dragons and Mustangs went the full three games, slipping the first two with one-run contests on Thursday and Friday before Cy Ranch pulled out a 3-0 win Saturday afternoon to advance Saturday afternoon in Mumford.
“Our kids stayed true to what we are,” Round Rock head coach John Carter said. “I’ll never not be proud of them. They teach me a lot every day.”
Round Rock senior Jared McKenzie allowed two runs in three innings of work in the decisive Game 3 and fellow Dragon senior Jacob Strmiska gave up one run with one strikeout over four innings in relief.
The Mustangs scored two runs in the first innings on a pair of singles and a walk. The Dragons stranded a runner on base in the bottom half of the frame, something that became all too regular throughout the afternoon.
“The difference in the ballgame was the two freebies in the first inning,” Carter said. “Jared was the right guy and I’m not going to second-guess myself. He wants the ball and he’s a senior and he’s been here since he was a sophomore and he knows the game.”
Round Rock out-hit Cy Ranch 6-4 in Game 3, but struck out nine times compared to just one strikeout for the Mustangs.
“(Cy Ranch catcher Jared Alvarez-Lopez) is legit back there and he kept us from doing what we like to do, and that’s forcing people to play catch,” Carter said. “We had to be conservative on the bases.”
Cy Ranch added two more hits and one more run in the sixth.
“We wanted to put the ball in play and make them play defense,” Carter said. “They weren’t really solid, they threw the ball all around. They made the plays when they had to and got the breaks.”
Game 2 on Friday night had a bit of controversy. With Round Rock holding a one-run lead in the sixth, Cy Ranch smacked a hit up the middle with the bases loaded and two out that gave the Mustangs a two-run lead and, presumably, a berth in the regional semifinals.
However, the umpires ruled that the first base umpire had called time before the pitch was thrown, and the runners and batter returned as if nothing had happened.
The 13 seniors have been around for quite a few quality seasons with the Dragons.
Round Rock won the outright district title this season after finishing tied atop the district standings the last two seasons. The Dragons also made an appearance in the state tournament in 2017 when the current seniors were sophomores.
“Dragon baseball is known for being a quality program,” Carter said. “They have upheld that and continued to take it to another level. We’re continuing to climb that mountain and when you get coaches from all over the state sending you messages, I’m proud of who they are.”