DALLAS – Following his team’s 14-1 run-rule victory Friday in Game 1 of the regional quarterfinals, Lake Dallas head baseball coach John Tompkins said to expect an all-out war the following day against Arlington Heights.
Even that might be downplaying the chaos that wound up encompassing Saturday’s seventh inning in Game 2 between the Falcons and Yellow Jackets.
From one seismic momentum shift to another, Lake Dallas senior Christian Boulware capped that frenetic frame with a walk-off single to seal a come-from-behind 8-7 victory at Dallas Baptist University and clinch the 2-0 series sweep for the Falcons.
With the win, Lake Dallas punched its ticket to the regional semifinals for the first time since 2011 and will next meet Lubbock Cooper in a best-of-three series at Abilene Christian University. Game 1 is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday, with Game 2 on tap for 11 a.m. Saturday. If necessary, Game 3 will be played 30 minutes after Game 2.
“It was just a dog fight. At this time of year, it’s going to be a war and that’s what it was,” Tompkins said. “Our kids have been resilient and I just tip my hat to them so much for buying in.”
It all culminated in a game that neither team, for better or worse, will forget anytime soon.
The Falcons rallied behind five runs in the bottom of the seventh, erasing a 7-3 deficit. Lake Dallas put itself in promising position with three consecutive singles to lead off the frame before Heights unraveled on the mound.
Lake Dallas senior Josh Bleess scored on a passed ball and sophomore Logan Cowart and junior Alex Peppard each plated runs after being hit by pitches with the bases loaded to trim to gap to 7-6.
Following a Heights pitching change, the Falcons tied the contest at 7-7 on a fielder’s choice by senior Cody Duffey that scored senior Daniel Rivera.
Three batters later, Boulware (2-of-3, one RBI) stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs. Facing a 1-2 count, he sent a fastball into the right-center gap that cleared the Heights outfielders and scored Cowart for the game-winning run.
“I was really confident going into that at-bat,” Boulware said. "... I'm so proud of ours guys. We came in and struck right back at them. Battling back from adversity is something our coach has been preaching."
“I was jumping and rip my calf in two because off the bat I knew it was down. I knew it was ballgame,” Tompkins added.
Working with an all-too slim margin for error, the Falcons erased a four-run deficit moments after watching their hopes of a series sweep nearly go up in smoke courtesy of Heights’ own haymaker of an inning.
“They got in there and competed, but our guys went toe to toe with them,” Tompkins said. “It was like a boxing match, where you get punched and counterpunch.”
The Yellow Jackets initially put Lake Dallas on the ropes in the top of the seventh by posting six runs of their own to erase what was a 3-1 Falcons advantage. Heights managed that surge on four hits, including a seeing-eye single by Peyton Cook that scored Josh Soward and Blair Henley for the Yellow Jackets’ first lead of the game at 4-3. An infield single by Harrison Beethe upped the count to 5-3 and a fielder’s choice by Clayton Walker plated two more.
It was a revitalized look for a Heights team that was without six of its everyday starters during Friday's Game 1 loss due to a violation of unspecified team rules. All six were present Saturday and helped fuel the Yellow Jackets' initial comeback.
Nevertheless, the Falcons didn’t let the momentum shift linger.
“I’ll remember Daniel Rivera coming into the dugout ... and saying, ‘Let’s go win it,’” Tompkins said. “I told our guys that we had to be selective and take a couple pitches. We had to grind it out, put the handcuffs on some guys early in the count and told them to trust hitting with two strikes.”
The Falcons had already dug into Heights’ bullpen after chasing Henley on 5.1 innings of work. Lake Dallas managed four hits on the Yellow Jackets’ ace, three coming in the first inning to establish a 2-0 lead on RBIs by senior Drew Karp (2-of-3, one RBI) and Rivera.
Senior Ben Williamson toed the rubber for the Falcons, throwing four scoreless innings to pace the club early on. Tompkins piecemealed the rest of the game together behind four relievers, including senior Parker Tuck. He earned the win on 0.1 innings thrown – the final out to at last fan Heights’ seventh-inning flames.
Lake Dallas responded in kind, and in doing so prolonged the team’s deepest playoff run in five years.
“It’s just so awesome for these kids,” Tompkins said. “I can’t say enough about how great they are, regardless of what we do from here on out.”