The Denton Outlaws utilized their four hits almost to perfection and took advantage of six hit batsmen and two run-scoring balks Monday night to down the Graham Roughnecks in the opening game of the Texas Collegiate League Rogers Hornsby Division playoffs at Denton Ryan High School Baseball Field.
The scheduled McKinney at Coppell game Monday night in Coppell to begin the Tris Speaker Division playoffs had to be postponed one day due the heavy rains. The teams restart their best 2-of-3 series Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. in Coppell.
Righthander Josh Ruffin scattered eight hits and threw 102 pitches over eight innings to combine with lefty Kyle Gainley to blank the Roughnecks and get the playoff win. Graham starter Paul Brancheau was tagged with the loss after working the first three innings and finding himself down 5-0.
First baseman Trevor Head (pictured right) struck the big blow for the Outlaws as the Dallas Baptist standout hit a grand slam homer some 400 feet to left-centerfield on the first pitch from Brancheau in the bottom of the third with the bases jammed and two outs. That followed a balk in the first inning by the Graham starter to allow the Outlaws to score without the benefit of a hit.
Head's shot was the first safety of the game for Denton, which scored on another balk with a runner at third in the fourth inning and then put the game totally out of reach with a three-run rally in the top of the seventh.
Fellow DBU star Evan Bigley delivered a two-run single after Texas-San Antonio's Jose Hernandez, the TCL RBI leader in 2006 with 41 in 48 contests, drove in his first postseason run with a fielder's choice grounder.
While Graham out hit the Outlaws 5-4 in a game marred by perfect, no-error fielding by both squads, the Roughnecks could not bunch anything together with their five singles. Two double plays also aided the Denton pitching cause.
The Outlaws of coach Derek Matlock advanced to 5-1 in postseason play since 2005 with the win celebrated on the birthday of Denton internet broadcaster Chris Blake. Chris' father, John Blake, threw out the ceremonial first pitch of the playoffs with a close-to-perfect strike while taking a rare day off his duties as vice president of the Boston Red Sox.
Denton and Graham meet again at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday at Steer Stadium in Graham, and Denton needs one win to clinch its second Horsnby Division crown in a row. If a third game is needed, it will be contested in Denton Wednesday at 7:35 p.m.
Monday's Outlaws-Roughnecks' contest was delayed 25 minutes by welcome heavy showers in the North Metroplex, and Coppell's Copperhead Field was deluged by the rain.
Coppell and McKinney will shift their series to Tuesday-Wednesday and Thursday (if necessary), and any weather decisions for Tuesday's tussle will be made by noon (CDT) Tuesday and noted on the TCL website at www.texascollegiateleague.com. That site also contains full boxes from each of the postseason tilts and all regular-season games as well as news, notes and complete statistics of all nine teams during the 48-game regular campaign.