SAN ANTONIO — Westlake's ticket to the state baseball tournament was punctuated Friday night with a violent collision at home plate.
The Chaparrals defeated San Antonio Johnson 3-1 in eight innings at Northeast Stadium. They scratched for a run in the seventh inning and scored twice in the eighth to earn a berth at the Class 6A UIL state tournament next Friday at Dell Diamond. Westlake swept the Region IV-6A championship best-of-three series.
It was a game with high drama and a handful of stars wearing red, white and blue. The Chaps didn't score their first run until Aiden Bennett, who bats ninth in the order, scorched a single to center to tie the game 1-1 and force extra innings.
In the eighth, Ty Shapiro, a late defensive replacement, drove in Theo Gillen with the go-ahead score, and the Chaps held on behind a strong relief appearance by Nathan Duvall.
Oh, what about that collision?
Johnson second baseman Kayson Cunningham, who scored the Jaguars' lone run with a homer to right in the third, led off the bottom of the eighth with a single. He stole second and went to third on a fielder's choice groundout.
As Westlake coach J.T. Blair would say later, that set up the game's "signature moment."
Johnson catcher Masa Chilcutt lofted a medium-depth fly near the right-field line that was caught by Braeden Babb. He uncorked a perfect throw to catcher Ben Longoria, who applied the tag on Cunningham before getting bowled over.
Double play! Game over!
Westlake (40-4) earned its first trip to state since 2009, and the players rushed to the field to celebrate. They dumped a bucket of ice water on Blair. They posed for photographs. It was a perfect way to end the Region IV Tournament.
On Sunday morning, the Chaps learned they will play Pearland in a Class 6A state semifinal at 7 p.m. Friday at Dell Diamond. The winner of the game will play at 4 p.m. Saturday for the state championship against the winner of Friday's Cypress Woods-Lewisville Flower Mound game.
Blair praised Shapiro for coming up with the game's biggest hit on his only at-bat in the two-game series.
"We got him in for defense when the game got tight because Ty's got a great arm," the coach said. "His spot came up in the lineup. I know there's a little bit of magic in there because I've seen him do it before. And sure enough, he comes through."
Westlake wouldn't have won without a terrific performance by starting pitcher Jack Brady, who allowed just one run before being removed in the sixth inning. Relievers Joe Sockwell and Duvall kept the Jaguars off the scoreboard the rest of the way, setting up Westlake's late win.
Give Westlake credit for good fundamental baseball. In the seventh and eighth innings, the Chaparrals got the leadoff batters aboard, moved them over with sacrifice bunts and drove them in with key hits.
No one was more thrilled than Shapiro, who won't play baseball in college. His last competitive game will be at Dell Diamond. He was asked whether he felt pressure before his key hit.
"I'm used to coming off the bench in situations like that," he said. "I'm glad I got my time to shine and make something happen for the team."
With the game in hand, Blair had time to reflect on Westlake's finest hour. Perhaps the team's best moment will come after its 27-mile drive to Round Rock on Friday.
"It's a great win for our program; it's a great win for our fans; it's a great win for our community," he said. "And I promise you this — Westlake nation will be there."
This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Westlake used some late drama to beat Johnson in regional title game