ROUND ROCK — Malakoff knew its final game this season would be its last under long time head coach John Adair. He had already announced his retirement and the Tigers responded by sending him off on the right note.
They scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh to beat Corpus Christi London 8-7 in Saturday’s UIL 3A state championship baseball game at Dell Diamond.
“I love Malakoff,” Adair said of his two stints with the program. “It’s the reason I came back. It’s a family atmosphere, there’s a great culture, and I’m glad I could be a part of it.”
Both teams had a fast start to the game in the opening inning. London’s Mason Arispe recorded a lead-off triple in the top of the first. Kade Budd then reached base on a fielder’s choice when Arispe was thrown out trying to score at home. Budd ultimately scored after Jayden Martinez’s single to make it a 1-0 game.
Malakoff had a great answer in the bottom of the first and it started with team set-up man Alan Benhardt. He struck out two Gunter batters in the top of the first inning during Friday’s 4-3 state semifinal win before finishing with eight in five innings. On Saturday morning, Benhardt launched his team’s hitting and scoring. He recorded a lead-off single, moved to third base on Bryson Adair’s double and scored on Cole Gaddis’ sacrifice fly. Brandon Nations added a RBI double that scored Adair for the 2-1 Tigers’ lead.
London came back in the top of the second inning and evened the score. Henry Sepulveda earned a one-out single, advanced to second base on Darren Lewallen’s single, moved to third on a fielding error, and scored on a balk that also allowed Lewallen to reach second base.
Malakoff tried to respond with three baserunners between the second and third innings, but struggled to drive them in. The Tigers finally broke through again in the fourth when they scored a pair of runs to take back the lead. They loaded the bases when Nathan Jones singled, Riggin Smith reached base on a throwing error, and Erik Waldo walked. Judd Driskell then served as Smith’s pinch runner and scored with Jones on Adair’s two-run RBI single.
London retook the lead with four runs in the top of the fifth. It started with Jacob Gonzalez’s lead-off walk, advancement to second base on Arispe’s sacrifice groundout, and move to third base on a wild pitch. After Budd walked, Mason Jacob drove him and Gonzalez in with a RBI double and scored the go-ahead run on Landon Salinas’ RBI single. Jayden Martinez also walked in the inning and scored when John Martinez reached on a fielder’s choice.
London added an insurance run when Gonzalez scored on a fielding error to make it a 7-4 game in the top of the sixth, but it wouldn’t be enough.
Malakoff had the last response when it scored four runs in the final inning to earn the walk-off state championship win. Adair launched the comeback with a RBI single that scored Smith. Following Gaddis’ RBI walk that scored Waldo, Nations and Davis were hit by pitches that drove in Hustead’s game-tying run and Adair’s game-winning run. The Tigers also walked off in their state semifinal win against Gunter on Friday.
“I’m so happy for these boys,” said John Adair. “This has been their dream. They fought together, battled together and worked hard.”