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"Blame it on the rain:" China Spring overcomes elements, advances to Regional Semifinals

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Posted at 11:29 PM, May 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-24 00:32:40-04

CORSICANA, Texas — During their run to a state championship, China Spring's football team adopted the mantra, "Nasty Weather, Nasty Cougars." The idea was that as conditions got worse, they got better.

While it is a lot harder to apply that same mantra to a baseball team (I do NOT recommend waving metal bats around in a storm), the China Spring baseball team has managed to show that same resilience.

When the conditions get bad, they get better.

After dealing with a more-than 36 hour rain delay, the Cougars used a three-run sixth inning rally to overcome Rusk and earn a spot in the Regional Semifinals.

"Coach Lopez has always been talking about this," senior Brayden Faulkner said. "Something wasn't gonna go our way. There was gonna be adversity. Something was gonna happen. And he's prepared us really well for this and we came out on top."

The game started late Saturday night in Crandall, where the Cougars jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. But, Rusk battled back to take a 4-3 lead by the top of the third inning.

Then, mother nature played her best hand. A line of late-night storms brought the game to a halt, and the coaches had to ask the UIL for a waiver which would allow them to delay the game until Monday afternoon. The UIL granted the waiver, saying they had to finish the game by 12 a.m. Tuesday or it would be decided by a coin flip.

So, on a new day, in a new town, the two teams finally picked up where they left off: Rusk led 4-3 in the third inning and had runners on first and second with two outs.

Cage McCloud, China Spring's starting pitcher, opened the second day of action with an emphatic strikeout to end the inning, setting the stage for a pitcher's duel with Vanderbilt commit JD Thompson. The two exchanged scoreless frames in the fourth inning.

Thompson got the better of McCloud in the fifth. After a misplayed pop fly to center field put a runner on base, he delivered an RBI double to left field, extending the Rusk lead to 5-3.

On the mound, Thompson continued to deliver. China Spring managed a couple of hits and free passes on the flamethrowing right-hander, but they could not push a run across the plate.

To start the bottom of the sixth inning, Thompson struck out Kolby Killough for the first out of the inning. But, Killough's long at-bat, combined with a few valiant plate appearances in the fifth inning, pushed Thompson over the UIL's pitch count limit.

When Thompson left the game, China Spring's bats returned to life.

On Mason Cirkel's first batter, Trevor Black delivered a double which reached the wall in right center field. After a Dean Hannah walk, Jase Garrett singled through the right side of the infield to score Black from second base. Faulkner was then hit by a pitch.

The Cougars broke through again when McCloud lofted an RBI single to center field. Then, Trace Necessary hit a chopper to third base, and Faulkner beat the throw home, giving China Spring a 6-5 lead heading into the seventh inning.

In the seventh, Thompson delivered a two-out single, but that was all Rusk could manage.

Bryce Tabor caught the final fly out in center field to seal the win, and the players formed a dogpile by the pitcher's mound.

"I couldn't be more proud of these guys," Head Coach Jesse Lopez said. "We talk about being good kids and doing things right. Good things happen to good people, and we are believers in that. So, I couldn't be more excited for them. They deserve it."

China Spring's win puts them in the Regional Semifinals, where they will play Orangefield.