CORINTH – Lake Dallas sophomore Will McConnell got caught up in the moment.
McConnell was so excited that he clinched a playoff berth for the Falcons that he initially forgot to run to first base to complete a sequence in which he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded during the bottom of the eighth inning in Tuesday’s home game.
Euphoria had taken over for McConnell and his Falcon teammates, who greeted the hero of Lake Dallas’ 4-3 come-from-behind win against Richland by pouring bottles of water onto his head.
“It was maybe one of the best baseball feelings that I have ever had,” McConnell said. “Coach (Chris Haney) gave me the take sign the entire time. There was one down the middle and I wanted to hit that ball so hard. And, the one that came up and in and hit me on the elbow for us to win the game, I completely forgot that I had to touch first base. I didn’t even know what to think at that point. I was just so happy.”
It was a Lake Dallas team that, for most of the game, was down but not out for the count.
The Falcons fell behind 3-0 and was later down to its last strike.
Facing a count of one ball and two strikes with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Falcon junior Zachary Darden hit a single underneath the glove of Richland’s third baseman and into left field to tie the score at 3-3.
“The best part about these guys they have adapted a never-say-die mentality,” Haney said. “You’ve seen it in the walk-off win against Denton. It’s their identity. The fact that they never think that they’re out of it has been huge.”
Darden’s hit was just one of three hits in the game for the Falcons. Lake Dallas struggled to generate anything off Richland pitcher Remington Sproehl. Sproehl threw multiple types of pitches for strikes to keep the Falcons off balance and had a no-hitter working through 4 2/3 innings.
Richland’s offense scored three runs in two-out situations to take a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning.
Lake Dallas senior Ricardo Rodriguez broke up Sproehl’s no-hitter with one swing of the bat. Rodriguez cleared a two-run home run over the left-field wall to score junior Michael Duran, who had been struck by a pitch, to cut the Richland advantage to 3-2.
“Ricardo is maybe the most clutch guy that I have ever seen,” McConnell said. “He will hit line drives over people, singles, doubles to score two runs at a time. He’s pretty consistent at that.”
Sproehl remained in the game and threw 110 pitches until he was pulled in the seventh after he issued a four-pitch walk to McConnell, forcing Richland’s coaching staff to summon its bullpen. Sproehl totaled nine strikeouts before being replaced by Cole Scofield.
All the while, Lake Dallas’ bullpen kept Richland’s offense at bay.
Rodriguez and Dane Haehn held the Royals scoreless over the game’s final four innings and also received some timely play from the Falcon defense. Richland had the go-ahead run at third base after Scofield tripled with one out in the top of the eighth, but he was later caught in a rundown and tagged out as he was sliding back into third base.
“That’s been kind of our M.O.,” Haney said. “We kind of pitch by committee. We’ve got about four or five guys that can go in at any time and know that they just need to be the next man up. It’s the same thing at the plate as on the mound.”
McConnell’s walk-off hit by pitch in the home half of the eighth clinched third place in District 6-5 for Lake Dallas (13-15 overall, 8-5 district).
Coming into the game, both Lake Dallas and Northwest had identical records in district play and the Falcons held a one-game lead over Colleyville Heritage for one of the two final playoff spots in the district.
Lake Dallas took care of business and then clinched third place in 6-5 after Denton Ryan edged Northwest, 4-3, and Birdville shut out Heritage, 4-0.