Tristen Shanks slid home on a wild pitch with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, ending a hotly-contested three-hour tussle as Prairie View squeaked past River Oaks 4-3 Tuesday night.
Prairie View (12-7, 4-4) can clinch second place in MAIS District 3-2A with a victory at Riverdale on Friday.
“We haven't won anything yet,” cautioned Prairie View coach Dan Smart.
While the Spartans haven't officially secured the district's second and final playoff spot, Tuesday's victory unquestionably gave them the inside track. Prairie View won its first two meetings against Riverdale, which is winless in league play, 9-0 and 10-0. A victory at Coushatta on Friday would actually leave Prairie View tied with River Oaks, but the Spartans hold the tiebreaker by virtue of winning two-of-three games in the head-to-head series.
River Oaks won the first meeting 2-0 in Bastrop, with Prairie View taking the middle game in Monroe 4-1.
Obviously, the rubber game was another nailbiter.
After leaving the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth, the Spartans quickly reloaded the sacks with nobody out in the ninth.
Shanks led off with a base hit up the middle and moved to third on an errant pickoff attempt. River Oaks opted to intentionally walk the next two batters, Maclendon Sharp and Josh Daigle.
River Oaks reliever Brendan MacGregor nearly escaped the jam, striking out the next two batters.
Taking off instantly on a pitch that bounced in front of the plate and caromed toward the backstop, slid home with the game-winning run.
“I had it my head that we had to do anything we could,” Shanks said. “The opportunity was there and I couldn't turn it down.”
Although the play at the plate wasn't close, Shanks had his doubts that he was going to make it home safely.
“It seemed like a close play to me,” Shanks said. “It scared me.”
Extra-inning games are nothing new to the Spartans.
“We've played four or five extra-inning games,” Shanks said. “Tonight, we just kept battling until we came out on top.”
Both teams scored single runs in the second.
MacGregor hit into a force play for the first out of the top of the second, stole second and scored the game's first run on a pair of wild pitches.
Prairie View answered in the home half of the frame. Austin McDonald reached on a leadoff error, advanced into scoring position on Andrew Jenkins' sacrifice bunt and Levi Humphrey worked a nine-pitch walk. Two batters later, Brandon Jacobs drilled a clutch, two-out single into center field, squaring the game at 1 apiece.
Page 2 of 2 - River Oaks regained the lead with a deuce in the third.
Cole Norton led off with a single, Chase Bates walked and Garrett Morgan bunted both runners over. Jamie Downs followed with a grounder to second base and Norton slid home head first with the go-ahead run.
With two away, MacGregor drew a free pass to fill the bases and Cole Nimmo was hit by a pitch, forcing Bates home.
Trailing 3-1, the Spartans drew even with a pair of unearned runs in the fourth.
Back-to-back, one-out errors left Humphrey and Matt Reed at the corners. As Reed stole second, the throw caromed into center field, enabling Humphrey to cross. Mayo followed with an opposite-field RBI single to right. It would turn out to be a crucial hit as neither team would scratch again until the ninth.
Taking over on the mound for Sharp, Shanks allowed only two base runners over the next five innings, while striking out seven.
Barnes, who struck out 10 and walked three through eight innings, worked his way out trouble in the seventh and eighth to extend the game.
Prairie View left runners at first and second in the seventh when Mayo singled, Shanks hit into a fielder's choice and Sharp singled, before Barnes got out of the inning with a fly ball to center field.
After retiring the first two batters to start the eighth, Barnes grazed Humphrey and walked Reed. Jacobs' 45-foot infield single loaded the bases, but Barnes, a sophomore righthander, retired the side with his 10th punchout.
Shanks, who combined with Jacobs to shutout Riverdale on Monday, turned the ball over to Jacobs in the ninth. Jacobs pitched around a two-out error in his only inning of work en route to gaining the win.
“It took everybody tonight,” Smart said. “It took Sharp getting through three hard innings when he didn't have his best stuff. Shanks pitched well for five innings. I call Brandon Jacobs a one-pitch pitcher because his first pitch is almost always an out.”
Prairie View out-hit the Mustangs 7-3, but stranded 12 base runners. Neither team could muster an extra-base hit. Mayo, who reached safely in his first four plate appearances, finished the evening 2-for-3 to lead the Spartans offensively. Jacobs added a pair of singles, with base hits by Shanks, Sharp and Andrew Jenkins.
River Oaks, which was held hitless over the final five innings, received two singles from Bates and a base knock from Norton.
Prairie View gets back into action on Thursday at Riverfield, before traveling to Riverdale for the regular season finale. Both games get under way at 3 p.m.
Notes: Prairie View's five seniors — Josh Daigle, Levi Humphrey, Andrew Jenkins, Austin McDonald and Trevor Wallace — were recognized prior to the game. … Barring an upset on Friday, the Spartans will face District 3-2A champion Marshall in a best-of-three first-round series, starting next week. Game 1 would be played in Bastrop, with Games 2 and 3 set for Holly Springs, Miss. … Marshall clinched its seventh straight district championship by splitting a double header with Kirk on Tuesday.