It took until the final game of the season, but the East Texas Pump Jacks clinched a title.
Mired in a three-way race for the Texas Collegiate League’s second-half championship, the Jacks pulled ahead of the Brazos Valley Bombers and Victoria Generals with five straight wins to end the regular season, including a 7-4, campaign-ending victory over the McKinney Marshals at historic Driller Park Monday night.
The win, coupled with the Generals’ 9-7 loss to the Texas Tomcats, gave the Pump Jacks a two-game margin in the second-half standings over Victoria. The Bombers finished in third, three games back.
East Texas and Victoria tied for the league’s best record, but the Generals notched the #1 seed for the playoffs by taking the season head-to-head series against the Jacks.
The night began with some uneasiness in the air. Had the Jacks lost and Victoria won, East Texas would have fallen to the third seed and lost home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
A team effort, however, prevented that scenario from happening. The Pump Jacks grinded out a win with seven different hitters reaching base at least twice, and three pitchers shutting down McKinney threats.
Possibly the highlight of the night, however, came off the bat of Zac Fisher. The Pump Jacks stalwart entered the game tied for the TCL record with 16 doubles on the season. Hitless entering the seventh inning, Fisher notched the record-breaker in what turned out to be his final at-bat of the regular season. His liner just inches inside the first base bag tiptoed down the line, allowing Fisher to coast into second for his 17th double of the season.
The double drove in Matt Carvutto for the final run of the game for the Jacks. Carvutto, who himself had tied Fisher with 16 doubles earlier in the game, hit a sinking liner under the right fielder’s glove and toward the wall. Two runs scored as Carvutto sped past second and pulled into third base with his first triple of the season.
Carvutto also scored the initial run of the contest, drawing a one-out walk in the first inning before three straight wild pitches brought him home.
McKinney tied the score at one apiece in the top of the third, but East Texas took the lead for good in the home half of the fourth. Jesse Santo and Brandon Wood led off with singles, including Wood’s second bunt hit of the night. One out later, Carvutto hit his double to left-center field to plate both runners for a 3-1 advantage.
The Marshals cut the lead in half with a pair of two-out hits in the fifth inning, but the Jacks responded immediately. Wood reached on a throwing error with two away, then moved into scoring position when he stole second.
Another McKinney run scored on two two-out hits in the fifth, but the Jacks responded as Wood reached on a throwing error with two away in the bottom of the inning. Lee Orr collected an infield single and the ball was thrown away again, scoring Wood for a 4-2 lead.
The game remained close until the Pump Jacks’ three-run rally in the bottom of the seventh that culminated in Fisher’s double.
Texas A&M pitcher Kyle Martin earned his first win of the season with five solid innings. Martin allowed four hits and two runs while whiffing four Marshals. Garrett Methvin took over and pitched 2.2 scoreless frames, and John Walter K’d three in 1.1 innings pitched while giving up two unearned runs in the top of the ninth inning.
Carvutto led the way at the plate with a 2-for-4 outing, including four RBI, two runs scored and a walk. Orr and Wood each added two hits, while Wood and Santo scored two runs apiece.
The postseason opens Tuesday when the Pump Jacks travel to Bryan to face the Bombers to open their best-of-three series. Victoria faces off with the Tomcats in the other divisional playoff.
The scene shifts to historic Driller Park on Wednesday for Game Two of the series. The first Pump Jacks home playoff game is also Pump Jacks Team Poster Giveaway Night presented by Good Shepherd Medical Center and CBS 19. The first 500 fans will receive a specially-designed poster featuring every player who suited up for the Jacks this summer. The keepsake poster is perfect for autographs, plus it makes a great way to remember this summer’s edition of the Pump Jacks.
Tickets for Wednesday’s game are on sale now at the Pump Jacks’ office at 1100 Stone Road, Suite 120, in Kilgore. Tickets may also be purchased by phone at (903) 218-GO ET, or online at pumpjacksbaseball.com.
If a third game is necessary to decide the divisional series, it will be held at Driller Park on Thursday.
The two winners in the first round meet in the best-of-three TCL Championship Series beginning Friday, August 13.
Pump Jacks Nation is now on Facebook! Visit the East Texas Pump Jacks official team page on Facebook to follow all the news and gossip about the Pump Jacks, post your thoughts on the Jacks 2010 season, upload photos, and interact with other fans. Plus, the Jacks will post specials and discounts just for the Facebook community on the page! Click the link on the left side of the Pump Jacks web site or at the top of every news article on the site, and join Pump Jacks Nation on Facebook!
To follow all Pump Jacks news, including player awards, game stories and promotions, log on to the team’s official Website at www.pumpjacksbaseball.com.