The El Campo Ricebirds Varsity Tournament did not see the home team win the championship, let alone make it to the game. What the Ricebirds did get were five games and valuable work with district play set to begin a week from Tuesday.
The Ricebird Varsity Tournament champions were the Homeschool Christian Youth Association Eagles who picked up a late score to defeat the Boling Bulldogs 3-2.
While not making it to the final game, the Ricebirds (10-3-1) did play in the nightcap finale, accommodating Boling who had prom later that night.
The Ricebirds beat Van Vleck, Brazos and Rosenberg Terry. El Campo’s lone loss was to Bay City. In their tournament finale, they tied Sweeny 5-5, a team who had no-hit them the week prior.
“In the three games we won, we swung the bat extremely well scoring 42 runs,” Ricebirds coach Trent Popp said. “We swung (the bat) decent (against Sweeny) scoring five. The game we didn’t win we couldn’t hit the ball. We pitched well pretty much every game. In the game that we lost, we just couldn’t get the bats going.”
Against Sweeny, El Campo got to see some critical game situations that could be helpful come district play. The Ricebirds got to react and execute on a squeeze. El Campo opted for the easy out. The Ricebirds also made the right play on a rundown. Freshman catcher/pitcher Dean Poenitzsch caught a Sweeny runner off the third base bag. He eventually made the runner commit to running back to third and was able to catch up to him and tag him out.
The bats scored five runs despite only getting three hits in the game. El Campo’s base running took advantage of a few passed balls from Sweeny to plate runners with the bats muted.
Overall in the tournament, El Campo got a good look at a lot of their arms, with eight different pitchers getting in work over the five games.
In 27 innings of work, the Ricebird pitching staff had a 3.67 ERA, with 22 strikeouts and in three games allowed no walks.
“We’ve been going in the right direction and we’re still going in the right direction,” Popp said. “The bats are coming alive. The pitching has been there all year. The defense is coming around and we’re starting to become a complete ball club.”
El Campo did not have a game Tuesday.
The non-district finale will be Friday on the road against La Grange who are 6-6 on the season.