GC Baseball: Kerens' Big Train just keeps on rolling

May 16—TYLER — The Kerens big train just keeps on rolling, keeps on smashing and driving its way through the Class 2A baseball playoffs, putting up ridiculous, head-shaking numbers with a run for the ages while barely giving up a run.

The Bobcats aren't just winning, they're leaving teams in their wake feeling helpless and hopeless after failing to score — or even threatening to score — against a Kerens pitching staff that has won six playoff games in a row while giving up just one run and a handful of hits.

The Ritchie Twins — Krayton and Kannon — are clearly as good as any 1-2 pitching punch in 2A baseball in Texas. They have taken the bats out of the hands of players from Price Carlisle, Linden-Kildare and most recently Beckville — yes, that Beckville, the very team that knocked Kerens out of the playoffs a year ago, winning a close, intense best-of-three series 2-1 in the 2A Region III Quarterfinals.

Kerens got the rematch this week and swept Beckville right out of the playoffs winning the Region Quarterfinal series in one evening with back-to-back victories Wednesday (3-0 and 5-1) at Tyler's Mike Carter Field, where Beckville managed to do something no team in the playoffs had done against Kerens — the Bearcats actually scored a run.

It came in the second inning of Game 2 and snapped the Ritchie Twins' 36-inning scoreless streak in the playoffs. Kannon Ritchie promptly started a new streak immediately, shutting out Beckville for five more innings to nail down the 5-1 victory and the Region Quarterfinal title.

That's 41 scoreless innings in 42 playoff innings.

The Ritchie Twins combined to pitch two no-hitters and a perfect game in the first four playoff games before facing Beckville, a formidable team that was ranked No. 7 in the state and had not been shut out in 29 games all season.

Krayton ended that season-long streak, shutting out Beckville with a three-hitter to open the series with a 3-0 victory Wednesday, striking out nine. He faced 26 batters, just five over the minimum.

Krayton has now struck out 38 batters in three playoff games (plus facing one batter in relief) while tossing a perfect game, a one-hitter, a three-hitter, and getting the final out in a combined no-hitter with his brother to close out the Linden-Kildare series. He has 111 strikeouts for the season and a 0.56 ERA.

The Bobcats got three runs in Wednesday's opener when Matt Rickard had a three-run double in the second inning, bringing home Andy Conklin, who went 2-for-3, Kooper Hill, who went 1-for-3, and Adrian Solis, who went 1-for-3. Muziq Gunnell also went 1-for-3. Kannon Ritchie played first base and went 1-for-3 as the Bobcats rattled off seven hits in the game.

Beckville finally scored a run against Kerens.

Beckville's run in the second inning in Game 2 wasn't just the first run scored against Kerens in the playoffs. It was the first run given up by Kerens since Neches scored against the Bobcats in a 14-2 loss back on March 19.

Since Neches found the plate almost two months ago, Kerens has slammed the door on everyone, winning six playoff games and the final 10 games of the regular season, including a forfeit win against Frankston and a 2-0 shutout over Frankston, which is alive in the playoffs and facing 2023 state-finalist Harleton in the 2A Region III Quarterfinals this week.

Since the start of district play on March 9, Kerens has won 20 games in a row, including 18 shutouts by the Ritchie Twins.

Kannon took care of business Wednesday. He faced only 24 batters, three over the minimum, and needed only 92 pitches (59 strikes) to end Beckville's season.

Kerens trailed 1-0 but came back with two runs in the second and ran away with the victory with a run in the fifth, a run in the sixth and a run in the seventh off Beckville's ace, Aiden Brantley, who entered the game with a 0.84 ERA

Kannon and Krayton each had RBIs in the game and Rickard stayed hot at the plate. After driving in three runs in Game 1, Matt drove in another run and scored twice in Game 2. Andy Conklin, a junior and key player for Kerens, went 2-for-4 and scored, and Adrian Solis went 1-for-3 and scored a run. Lane Lynch, a four-year star for Kerens, had a double (the only extra-base hit of the game) and Kooper Hill scored for the Bobcats.

Of course, five runs looked like 50 with Kannon or Krayton on the mound. Kannon allowed just two hits while striking out seven. He now has 35 strikeouts in three playoff games and 156 Ks for the season with a 0.29 ERA.

The Bobcats (25-5) move on to the Region III Semifinals against the winner of the Gary-Shelbyville best of three series. Gary, a No. 4 seed in the playoffs, leads the series 1-0 after beating Shelbyville 10-3 Wednesday in Nacogdoches.

Both Gary and Shelbyville, which sits right off the Texas-Louisiana state line, are both deep East Texas teams, so the next series could be back at Mike Carter Field in Tyler, a good neutral site, or Bullard's Brookhill High School.