By Bill McCaughey
For The Fort Bend Star
Travis ace Ryan Rickett was in a jam.
He had a one run lead in the top of the seventh, the bases loaded, and no one out. But Rickett did what any ace would do, he had his catcher pick off the runner on third on a failed squeeze attempt, and then he struck out the last two batters to notch a 2-1 victory.
“I had the bases loaded and I just left everything I had out on the field. I didn’t let the noise or anything get to me, and I just threw as hard as I could every pitch. I had confidence in my fastball and slider, and it worked out,” Rickett said.
Before the home game, Travis coach Rodney Hernandez predicted a nail-biter, and a nail-biter it was. Both Rickett and Kempner’s Simeon Woods-Richardson brought their A-game. Rickett had a no-hitter through four innings before giving up a single in the fifth.
“My slider was really working tonight. That was the best my stuff has been,” Rickett said. “I was commanding the zone and keeping them off-balance with my fastball and slider.”
In the sixth inning, Noah Huerta singled to center field and Alec Carr followed with a triple down the right field line to drive in Kempner’s only run.
“Carr hit a mistake,” Rickett said. “I was trying to go outside, off the plate, and I threw it right down the middle. He hit it a long way.”
Meanwhile Woods-Richardson was just as effective, giving up only two hits in the first four innings. In the fifth inning, Woods-Richardson tried one curve ball too many to Jaron Burks, and Burks lifted it over the left field fence.
“He threw me three curve balls in a row. I wasn’t on the first two, but I got right on the last one,” Burks said. “It felt really good when I hit it.”
Woods-Richardson gave up his second run later in the inning when he walked Rickett with the bases loaded.
In the top of the seventh, Kempner loaded the bases on two walks and a single. Hernandez gathered everyone on the mound to remind them about the squeeze bunt.
“I told them to expect a squeeze sometime during the count,” Hernandez said. “Kempner tried it and we were able to execute.”
When the Kempner batter missed the ball on the safety squeeze, catcher Hunter Koumonduras fired to shortstop Brandon Pruitt covering third base. The throw hit the runner, Jeremiah McCollum, and for a few seconds, the ball, McCollum and Pruitt were all on the ground around third base before Pruitt grabbed the ball and tagged McCollum who was called out.
“I didn’t think twice about throwing the ball,” Koumonduras said. “Brandon made a great play to get the out.”
With the momentum switching back to Travis, Rickett struck out the last two batters to earn the complete game win.
“Ryan pitched a great game. I told them in the sixth inning that two runs was not enough to beat Kempner,” Hernandez said. “But we were able to pull it out.”
With the win last Tuesday, Travis moved into a three-way tie for first place with Kempner and Ridge Point, all with 6-1 records. Later in the week, Ridge Point beat Kempner and Travis beat Clements to give both Ridge Point and Travis 7-1 records, while Kempner dropped to 6-2.