From Staff Reports
ROUND ROCK — Jacob Owen gave up a hit to the first batter he faced on Wednesday, but allowed little more after that as the Linden-Kildare Tigers advanced to the UIL State Baseball Tournament’s Class 2A state championship game with a 5-0 win over Valley Mills at Dell Diamond.
The Tigers (21-9) will face either Dallardsville Big Sandy or Albany in the title game at noon today back at Dell Diamond. Valley Mills ends its season with a 28-7 record.
Linden-Kildare is at the state tournament for the fourth time in school history and first since 1985. The Tigers are seeking their second state title to go along with one in 1980.
Owen (8-2) gave up a single to the first Valley Mills batter in the bottom of the first inning, but allowed just two more hits the rest of the way — singles in the fourth and fifth frames — to work the shutout for the Tigers. He struck out two and walked one.
The Tigers, meanwhile, made the most of three hits, three walks and four Valley Mills errors to give Owen all of the support he would need.
Linden-Kildare used a hit, a walk and two errors in the top of the third to take a 1-0 lead.
After a strikeout to open the inning, Chase Bynum and Dalton Alford reached on errors and Owen drew a walk to load the bases. Duece Schuler followed with an RBI single, and the Tigers took the lead for good.
Owen and Valley Mills starter Chase Keeton (7-4) took turns shutting down batters until the Tigers broke through with four more runs in the top of the seventh to pull away.
Colt Neville opened the L-K seventh with a walk, but pinch-runner Justin Dunlap was erased at second when Wert dropped down a bunt. Chase Bynum was hit by a pitch, and then Alford got aboard on a fielder’s choice that led to an error that plated Wert and moved Bynum to third and Alford to second.
Owen was issued an intentional pass to load the bases, and after a strikeout, Nic Kunze hit a ball to right that was misplayed into a bases-clearing error that put Linden-Kildare on top 5-0.
Owen worked a perfect seventh to send the Tigers to the title match.