SAN ANGELO — The Abilene High baseball team is in a fight for the final playoff berth out of District 3-6A and the emotions of that boiled over Tuesday night in a 1-0 loss to San Angelo Central.
The loss dropped the Eagles (15-8 overall, 4-5 in district) a half-game behind Weatherford (16-9, 4-4) for the fourth and final playoff spot.
Trey Neslage threw a no-hitter for the Bobcats (18-11-1, 6-3), taking advantage of a large strike zone to rack up eight strikeouts (five looking) while walking four and hitting two others on an efficient 86 pitches.
“I asked him after the game if he knew it was a no-hitter,” Central coach Patrick Penry said. “He said, ‘Yeah, that’s why I was keeping it away and starting to walk them.'”
Ryan Johnson was a hard-luck loser for AHS, allowing just four hits and a walk in a complete-game effort. He also hit two batters.
“Our guys played great and deserved better than what the outcome was,” Abilene High coach Lee Fletcher said. “Ryan pitched one heck of a game and the defense played one heck of a game.”
The loss was AHS’ fourth in district play by one run.
“That gets old and it’s frustrating, but the guys are playing well,” Fletcher said. “Unfortunately the ball hasn’t bounced our way. That’s the way baseball goes.”
Things turned ugly in the sixth inning when Marcos Garcia drew a walk and had a bat flip that Central first baseman Dawson Daniel took exception to. Daniel stood in front of first base as Garcia was on his way down the line and exchanged words and shoves with Garcia.
Abilene High first base coach Mario Estrada immediately stepped in to separate the two as the Central defense started to collapse towards their teammate while the Abilene High team spilled a few steps out of the dugout.
Order was quickly restored, and the half-inning was completed without further incident.
“I didn’t say anything to settle them down because we were fighting in a one-run game,” Fletcher said. “There were a whole lot of elements working against us and we were scratching and clawing for everything.”
Daniel came up second in the bottom half of the frame, and Johnson induced a ground out to Eric Abbe at shortstop for the second out. Abbe was then ejected for what the umpire deemed to be taunting.
Abbe, for his part, said that he quietly said “Go sit down” in Daniel’s direction.
It’s not yet known if Abbe will be suspended for Friday’s 4:30 p.m. rematch at Blackburn Field as a result of his ejection.
Central got the only run it needed in the first inning when Blake Mikeska drew a leadoff walk and then went first-to-third on a sacrifice bunt by Rance Rosas when the AHS defense left the base uncovered.
Mikeska then scored on an RBI groundout by Nixon Brannon.
“We had the third baseman crashing (towards home) and the pitcher crashing to the first base line,” said Fletcher of the bunt that moved Mikeska into scoring position. “Typically we would like for our catcher to trade places with the third baseman, but it was a great bunt.”
The Bobcats had back-to-back two-out singles in the second off Johnson before Hayden Stevens grounded out to end the inning.
AHS broke up Neslage’s perfect game when Matthew Ezzell drew a one-out walk in the third inning. The Eagles left two on base in the frame as Witt Holloway was hit by a pitch with two outs to move Ezzell to second base.
That was one of only two times AHS got a runner into scoring possession.
Johnson got out of a fourth inning jam when Daniel singled and took second on a wild pitch. The Central first baseman was then thrown out by Abbe at third on a fielder’s choice for the second out and, after a Jakob Charles single, Johnson got Stevens to ground out to end the inning.
SAN ANGELO CENTRAL 1, ABILENE HIGH 0
Ryan Johnson and Matthew Ezzell. Trey Neslage and Nixon Brannon. W — Neslage. L — Johnson.
Records — Abilene High 15-8, 4-5; San Angelo Central 18-11, 6-3.