The Lake Dallas baseball team was down, but not out for the count.
Down by three runs with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning of Friday's District 10-5A game against Denton, the Falcons scored four runs, including a walk-off RBI single by Abram Aguilar to lift Lake Dallas to a 4-3 win at Falcon Field.
The late rally started with a two-run double by Walker Davis. Then, following back-to-back walks to load the bases, Dane Haehn drew a bases-loaded walk, tying the score at 3-3.
Aguillar completed the comeback with his hit.
It was a complete reversal from earlier in the game. Denton led 3-0 after two innings and Lake Dallas was held without a run through the first six innings.
Credit the Falcon bullpen for giving Lake Dallas a chance at a comeback. Jarren Giaimo and Michael Duran pitched 5.2 innings of scoreless relief, allowing just three hits and one walk while striking out five.
The Falcon pitching staff was just as instrumental in the team's previous game against the Broncos.
Getting on base was something that Lake Dallas didn’t let Denton do much of Tuesday. Zachary Darden and Will McConnell combined to allow just three hits in seven innings of shut-out ball in a 9-0 victory.
Darden also tallied seven strikeouts through the game’s first five innings before handing over the pitching duties to McConnell.
"Zach has been pretty good for us on the mound, even in tournament season," said Chris Haney, Lake Dallas head coach. "He's a guy that can throw two pitches for a strike and is super competitive. I think that he had seven strikeouts. It was a really good night for Zach."
As for the Lake Dallas offense, Haney didn’t want his Falcons to start thinking about the pitch count of Denton pitcher Caden Greanead.
Greanead had matched strike for strike with Darden, and getting either one to budge was going to tough. That’s why Haney told his players to lock in and focus on the little things that the coaching staff had been preaching to them in regards to their approach at the plate. The payoff would come through in-game adjustments, not thinking about trying to force the Broncos to use their bullpen.
All of that attention to detail finally paid off in the fifth inning.
Dane Haehn and Jack Belcher drove in each of the first two runs for Lake Dallas with an RBI single apiece, and the Falcon offense was only getting started.
“It started a little slow, but we made those in-game adjustments and started to try to get the ball up the middle and be a little more aggressive with our approach at the plate and just create pressure,” Haney said. “I think that's the biggest thing.”
Elijah Howard provided a big spark hitting in the No. 1 hole in the lineup for Lake Dallas, finishing the game 3-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored. Haehn, McConnell and Belcher each had two hits in the victory.
"Scrapping two runs in the fifth was pretty big, just striking first in a big game like that,” Haney said. “We had some chances early, got some guys on base, but didn't capitalize."
Haney is excited to get in a full season with his players and coaching staff after the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled the second half of the 2020 season, which was his first as bench boss at Lake Dallas after taking over for Ryan Howard, who is now serving in the same capacity at Coppell.
Every game this year for Lake Dallas (6-10 overall, 2-0 District 5-6A) provides another opportunity for the Falcons to gain varsity experience.
Haney inherited a Lake Dallas team in fall 2019 that was coming off one of its best seasons in program history. The Falcons went 22-19 that spring and made a run to the regional semifinal. But, Lake Dallas underwent a significant roster turnover following that historical playoff run, including the loss of a big senior class to graduation.
Lake Dallas took its lumps early, winning just two of its first 10 games – although several of those games were against Class 6A schools, including to state-ranked Coppell. But, the Falcons have worked through their mistakes. Lake Dallas has gone 4-3 in its last seven games.
“To see these guys forge out on their own path will be fun,” Haney said. “They're fast, they play hard. When they play hard, they play fast. To be able to sit back and watch guys these compete for a district title, it is something that they have been working for during our preseason tournaments.”
The scheduling format for District 6-5A this season involves the same two teams playing each other in back-to-back games – the first occurrence on a Tuesday night and the second one on a Friday night.
"Love it," Haney said. "I'm a firm believer that baseball needs to be played in series. I think there is a reason that they do it in college. There is a reason that they do it in pro ball. To have that trickle-down effect is kind of fun for us to play in. It's great to be able to play the same team Tuesday then on Friday. That's essentially how you find your best team.”