Evangel closer Brooks Bryan had all 21 teammates piled on him on the turf mound of Field No. 40 at McMurry Park, but all the pressure was off.
Bryan navigated through a challenging 2 1/3 innings save as the No. 2 Eagles topped No. 1 John Curtis in a 6-4 win to take the Class 3A baseball championship Saturday.
This group of Eagles (28-8-1) became the first in program history to win consecutive baseball titles after capturing the Class 2A title this past season.
“The dog pile was the same … but this one was more emotional for us seniors,” said Bryan, who finishes his season with just one run allowed. “We were happy as juniors, but this is what we’ve been working toward — consecutive championships to end our careers.
“It was tough (tonight), I didn’t really have good stuff. But you’ve got to keep battling … and it helps knowing your teammates have your back.”
That brotherly kinship is what Evangel’s season has revolved around, and Bryan worked around five walks and two hits with constant encouraging from teammates.
All five of his strikeouts came with at least one runner on base, and he ended the fifth and seventh innings with strikeouts while a Dylan Robinson hard line out with bases loaded closed the sixth inning.
In a postseason that’s featured pitching prominently in low-scoring games, the Eagles (28-8-1) desperately needed their bats after the Patriots (31-7) scored four first-inning runs off starter Austin McWhiney, who’s pitched admirably in the playoffs after returning from an elbow injury.
With two outs, a McWhiney throwing error allowed Daniel Cabrera to score. After another walk put two runners on base, Harry Chairs belted a three-run home run to left center field for the 4-0 lead.
Chairs, Curtis’ strong left-hander, appeared to be in a strong position before a five-run avalanche hit in the third inning.
A Collin Beckermeyer walk, a Blake Buckman double and a Miller Parker walk loaded the bases for Evangel’s Ryne Ray.
Ray, who earned Most Outstanding Player for his 2-for-2 effort with two intentional walks along with a solid catching performance, doubled in Beckermeyer and Parker to cut Curtis’ lead to 4-2.
Chance Defriend followed with a two-RBI double of his own, and he gave the Eagles a 5-4 lead when he scored on a John Michael Boswell single with two outs.
“We’ve got to tip our hats to Curtis because they came out and they were ready,” said Evangel coach Tim Hulett. “We kind of had a deer-in-the-headlights look, but the coaches started saying, ‘This guy isn’t going to beat us or this guy isn’t going to beat us.’
“We needed the offense to comeback for us … it was really big for us. The offense did it today, and we worked hard, took pitches and walked we were supposed to walk. We had a lot of team at-bats today.”
Reliever Shane Miears stabilized the game for the Eagles, recording the last out in the first inning, pitching three full scorless innings and getting the first two outs of the fifth inning. Miears recorded the win and has been a key reliever this postseason.
The combination of McWhiney, Miears and Bryan allowed four total hits to the Patriots.
It’s partially a credit to the catcher Ray, who controlled his visible frustration at the intentional walks.
“I know that the guy behind me (Defriend) can do his job, too,” Ray said. “This isn’t a one-man sport, it’s a team sport.
“The only words I can use for our pitchers tonight was ‘Bulldogs.’ They came out with a bulldog mentality and got it done.”
John Curtis was attempting to win its first baseball title since 2002.
Reliever Colin Perez replaced Chairs with one out in the third inning. Perez gave up one of three runs credited to Chairs, but he allowed two more runs in four innings.
The Eagles totaled nine hits, including two hits from Patrick Crouch, Buckman and Ray.
Six different Eagles scored the six runs, including Austin Stegall scoring a seventh-inning insurance run on a Hunter Shaw sacrifice fly.
Evangel beat Curtis during the regular season as well with Shaw on the mound.
The baseball title is the program’s sixth and first in Class 3A. Other titles include 2013, 2011, 2009, 2006 and 1995.
“It doesn’t feel real to be honest with you,” said Defriend, one of eight seniors. “We just knew that we had plenty of time to come back, and we’re not the type of team to shut down and quit.
“I don’t really know how we did it, but we give all the glory to God.”