In the top of the seventh with the Boswell Pioneers threatening to tie the game with the bases loaded after chasing Denton starter Malik Minter from the game, Denton coach Nick Buck didn’t see the full play, but as the ball hit off the Boswell bat, he thought the game would be tied at 4.
But Minter, after pitching the first six innings of the game, slid back to his frequent position of shortstop just in time to make the leaping, stabbing catch and toss to second base for the game-ending double play to give the Broncos the 4-3 victory.
With Denton’s win and Wichita Falls Rider’s 7-3 win over Wichita Falls, the Broncos displaced the Coyotes out of the fourth District 5-5A playoff spot and qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2007 after starting district play 1-6. Denton finished 6-1 in the second half.
Denton (16-11, 7-7) beat Saginaw Chisholm Trail 12-4 Thursday draw even with the Coyotes to set the stage for Friday. Buck kept the Broncos playoff run quiet in their final games, but he said there was no keeping Friday’s opportunity under wraps.
“They definitely knew what was at stake, especially coming in tonight with us depending on what Wichita Falls did,” Buck said. “Coming into a program that struggled for so long with the same team we did last year, to have the boys work as hard as they have and overcome so much adversity is so incredible.”
Minter, finishing with four strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings pitched, set the Broncos off on the right note in the first inning, sending each of the first three Boswell batters back to the dugout with an out.
In the bottom of the first, Denton gave itself and Minter some integral breathing room with three runs in the inning — all on two outs.
Dimitri Cruz led off the inning patiently with a walk, but Dolan Nicholson fouled out and Wyatt Folsom struck out to bring up Minter, who singled to left field.
Next up was John Collins, who blasted a two-RBI double off the right field fence to drive home Minter and Cruz and put Denton on the board up 2-0.
After a passed ball by Boswell pitcher Blake Tucker allowed Collins to third base, George Elliot delivered an RBI single up the middle of the infield to pad the Broncos’ lead to 3-0 and give them a much-needed cushion for later on in the game.
The Pioneers responded with a run in the top of the second inning, getting a leadoff single by Hunter Harp and an RBI double by Parker Robinson to draw Boswell to within 3-1.
Minter rallied to pick off Robinson at first base and force a groundout and a pop out.
Minter mowed through the Pioneers in the top of the fourth inning, striking out Boswell’s Parker Wilson to end the inning after picking off a Pioneer at first base for the second out.
Denton got its offense going again in the bottom of the fourth, using a Josh Boring double to left field and an error on the Boswell first baseman to add to its lead at 4-1, but the Pioneers got that run right back in the fifth inning on an RBI single by Blake Tucker.
Boring finished 3 for 3 with a double and two singles along with Elliot, who was 2 for 3.
The Pioneers nearly tied the game, but the Broncos center fielder Dawson Wright came up with a diving play on a lined shot for the second out of the inning. He then got up and tossed to second base to convert the inning-ending double play.
The Broncos nearly added to their lead in the fifth inning, but Collins was thrown out at home after walking and an Elliot single.
Boswell wouldn’t go away though, putting Minter in hot water again in the top of the sixth inning after Joseph DeHoyos singled and Robinson walked.
Minter steadied, striking out Hunter Harp for the second out before the Robinson walk and striking out Kory Murdock on a dropping curve ball to end the inning.
For Minter, making the playoffs was more than satisfying after some trying seasons and this season’s slow start.
“It was kind of hard because the last few years after a bad start, we would kind of roll over,” Minter said. “The coaches kept saying we would keep going and things would turn around. Eventually things came together to get us where we are.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873 and via Twitter at @PatrickHayslip.
Denton 4, Boswell 3