It’s a well-known fact that the College Station baseball team works well under pressure. In playoff elimination games, the Cougars entered Thursday with a 21-6 all-time record, including two wins off the brink this season.
With their backs against the wall against undefeated Friendswood, the Cougars added elimination win No. 22 with a 10-6 victory in Game 2 of the Class 5A best-of-3 regional semifinal series at Blue Bell Park.
“Our saying has always been, in my four years in College Station, ‘Don’t let us win Game 2, because we’ll come back and win Game 3 also,’” Cougar catcher Chanden Scamardo said.
After a three-hit night Wednesday, College Station (28-10-2) jumped on Mustang starting pitcher Jaxson Burch to begin with a 6-2 lead after three innings. Scamardo, who went 4-for-4 on the night, drove in one of his three RBIs in the first on a seeing-eye single up the middle. A double by Dalton Carnes scored another as a part of the four-run first.
In the third, doubles by Scamardo and Colby Smart helped set the stage for two more to cross home.
Friendswood (30-1) kept pace with a run in the first and another in the third. However, College Station held all the momentum, thanks to a rowdy crowd that packed the third-base line in the home of the Aggies, heading into the top of the fourth.
Three walks loaded the bases for Friendswood left fielder Isaiah Winkler, who belted a grand slam over the left-field fence to tie the score at six. With a bat flip that sent the club spinning 15 feet in the air, Winkler pulled all of the momentum back to the powder-blue half of the ballpark.
“We knew this team was going to be really good, coming in, offensively,” College Station infielder Max Childress said. “We had the mindset coming in this week of being ready for any moment.”
With much less fanfare, College Station plated the all-important tie-breaking run in the bottom of the fourth on a bases-loaded hit batter. On the first pitch of Danny Virgl’s at bat, the ball appeared to get away from Friendswood catcher Dylan Maxcey on a pitch low and inside. Courtesy runner Aiden DeLeon hesitated if he should go on a wild pitch, but after a few moments of confusion, Virgl made his way down the baseline, having taken the pitch on the leg.
RBI singles from Scamardo, Blake Binderup and Carnes drove in the final three insurance runs for the Cougars in the bottom of the fifth.
“We’ve had our struggles,” Cougar head coach Chris Litton said. “We’ve had our failures, but through that, they just continue to be resilient and show up and put in the work. They are being hardened from those lessons.”
As the game drew to a close, Childress was given his moment and the junior made the most of the opportunity. With his father, Texas A&M head baseball coach Rob Childress, in the stands, the younger Childress was handed the ball to record a one-out save in the bottom of the seventh. Rob Childress, who helmed the Aggie baseball program at Blue Bell Park for the last 16 years, will end his tenure with the Aggies on June 30, when his contract is set to expire.
“The special part of tonight was Max Childress getting to finish this game out on the mound for the Cougars for the win,” Litton said.
With runners on first and second, Childress threw a strike and a ball before hurling a pitch that resulted in a game-ending groundout to short.
“I was super excited,” Childress said. “I wanted the ball and I was really happy Coach Litton gave it to me and I was just happy to get the job done.”
Cougar reliever Cole Broadus earned his seventh win of the season with 3 1/3 innings of work Thursday.
Game 3 of the hotly-contested series will take place at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Cy Falls High School. With a practice day in the middle of the series Friday, Childress said the Cougars have a chance to focus on the high-pressure performances that have gotten College Station this far.
“I think it’s all about how we prepare,” he said. “I think if we go in tomorrow and not practice hard, I think they’re going to beat us. But if we practice hard and keep our heads straight on, I think we’ll have a chance to win again.”
Eagle staff reporter Alex Miller contributed to this story.
College Station 10, Friendswood 6
Friendswood 101 400 0 — 6
College Station 402 130 x — 10
W — Cole Broadus. L — Jaxson Burch.
Leading hitters: COLLEGE STATION — Chanden Scamardo 4-4, 2 runs, 3 RBIs; Blake Binderup 3-4, 2 RBIs; Dalton Carnes 2-3, 2 RBIs; Mikey Elko 1-4, 2 runs. FRIENDSWOOD — Izaac Pacheco 2-4, run; Isaiah Winkler 1-4, run, 4 RBIs; Devon Andrews 1-4, RBI; Kevin Newkirk 0-3, 2 runs.
Next: Game 3 at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Cypress Falls