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Baseball season ends for Wildcats

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    Cooper King, #22, checks on the pitcher while leading off second base. Photo by Erin Anderson Photography
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    The Wildcat dugout anxiously watches a play on the field. Photo by Erin Anderson Photography
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    The Wildcat seniors line up for a group picture on “Senior Night.” Photos by Ron Ramirez
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    Pitcher Jacob Harkins sets up to deliver the next strike. Photos by Ron Ramirez

Win and you’re in. Like life itself, sports can sometimes be as simple as that. Win and you’re in the playoffs.

On “Senior Night,” that meant even more to the senior-heavy Elgin Wildcats (13-14). They took on Cedar Creek in this winner-take-all game, as the Eagles were in the same position.

Wildcat Head Coach Hollis Stringer put his best pitcher, Jacob Harkins, on the mound with rock-steady Andruw Gonzales at catcher. First base was manned by David Perez, second had Isaac Davila, short was Jace Grady and third saw Oscar Carlos on duty. Keaton Grady started left field, Trevor Magnuson in center and Cooper King played right. Evan Joseph served as designated hitter for the team.

Harkins took the pressure on like a senior leader should and pitched a masterful game. He allowed no hits and only one walk through the first five innings. Inning six saw the first two Eagles batters walk, followed by a single, the first hit given up by Harkins. This drove in one run for Cedar Creek. A passed ball later in the inning saw a second run score for the Eagles. Harkins finished the game, giving up two runs and only two hits and striking out ten.

But as good a pitching job as it was, you have to produce runs as a team to win, and the Cedar Creek pitcher shut down the Wildcat hitters, allowing only three harmless singles in three different innings. Elgin’s clutch hitters were not able to string any offense together when it counted in this contest.

The Wildcats did threaten in the bottom of the fifth inning: Magnuson singled and advanced to third when Harkins bunted and reached first on an Eagles error. Unfortunately, the next two hitters flied out and struck out respectively. With two outs, the runner on third attempted to steal home but was tagged out to end the inning.

Stealing home is certainly not a high-percentage call, but it can be successful when a base runner or coach notices the pitcher has a lazy windup or the catcher is constantly distracted. In this case, it did not work. But if it had, it might have been the spark the team needed for the win. Some will agree with the call. Some won’t. Just like life.

Elgin also had two runners on base in the sixth inning off a walk and a single, but again, were not able to bring them around as the next batters struck out and grounded out. Clutch hitters not being able to bring their teammates home was the story of the game. Jace Grady, Magnuson and King all had one hit for Elgin.

Cedar Creek won the game 2-0. Win and you’re in. Cedar Creek did. Congratulations to the Eagles (but invest in some new uniform pants, please).

The four playoff spots in District 18-5A go to Georgetown with a 12-0 record and the top ranking in state, the second seed goes to East View, the third seed is Hutto and the fourth and final spot now goes to Cedar Creek.

To the young men who have played their last baseball game for Elgin High School, good luck and thank you. To the young men who will continue their baseball career in college, good luck and thank you. To the young men who will be back in high school next year to play a game they love, good luck and thank you. To the coaches and crew who have invested their time and skills in helping this team evolve in baseball as well as in life, good luck and thank you.

Win and you’re in. For Elgin varsity baseball, it is time for evaluation. For reflection. What worked. What didn’t.

Just like life.