Elkhart is set to make its first appearance at state since Boyz II Men ruled the pop world. The Elks hope win two more times before reaching the end of the road.

In the final four for the first time since 1992, No. 3 Elkhart (36-4) meets eighth-ranked Jarrell (25-4) in the Class 2A baseball semifinals Wednesday. The one-game matchup is set for 7 p.m. at Round Rock’s Dell Diamond.

The Elks have every reason to enter the game teeming with confidence, thanks in part to their ability to come up big in big situations. Their record during this postseason stands at 8-2, but they’ve followed up each loss in commanding fashion with everything on the line.

And that’s what the state tournament is all about — win and advance or lose and go home. The latter of which Elkhart, here for the fourth time ever, has never experienced.

“This is something we’ve talked about since (these players were kids),” Elkhart coach John Adair said after the regional final. “The kids played great baseball and pulled together. … It’s exciting.”

Indeed.

Having dropped a 2-0 decision to Nacogdoches Central Heights in Game 2 of the 2A Region III title round, the Elks rebounded to run away with the third-and-deciding game, 8-1. In some ways that outcome mirrored their regional quarterfinal series with Crockett, during which Elkhart fell 16-6 in Game 2 before winning 7-2 to advance.

Having lost 2-0 earlier in the day, Elkhart used a first-inning grand slam by Tyler Tutt to set the tone in Game 3 against Central Heights. It was the first hit of the series for the senior, who blasted the ball over the wall in left field at Kilgore’s historic Driller Park.

It turned out to be quite an historic moment for Elkhart baseball, which also advanced to state in 1977 and 1991.

“I was just trying to score a couple,” Tutt said amidst the post-game celebration. “I just happened to have the right swing at the right time.”

Jarrell, meanwhile, eliminated Hallettsville in a classic series for the 2A Region IV championship. The Cougars won the first and third games (5-4 and 6-5) and dropped the second game (4-3) to claim their first ticket to state since 2004, and second in program history.

Elkhart pitcher Cam Reeves is expected to get the start against Jarrell after racking up a 13-0 record in the first 40 games of the season. The senior is also batting .461 at the plate for the Elks, whose only regular-season losses were against Centerville (1-0) and Franklin (9-3).

“This feels pretty good, but I don’t want to be satisfied just because no (other Elkhart team) has made it past the first game,” Reeves told the Palestine Herald-Press. “I want to be the first to do that, to follow through.”

Elkhart’s Jordan White, a junior, is 10-3 on the mound and batting .391 at the plate while teammate Jacob Cheatham, a fellow junior, is 9-1 and batting .500.

Jarrell, meanwhile, led 5-1 in the bottom of the seventh in Game 3 of its regional final, but allowed Hallettsville four runs to end up in extra innings. The Cougars pushed the go-ahead run across the plate in the top of the ninth and shut down their scrappy opponent in the bottom of the ninth — Jarrell’s second ninth-inning win of the series.

No. 1 Brock (33-1) and Bushland (30-6-1) meet in the first 2A semifinal at 4 p.m. today from Dell Diamond. The championship game is set for noon Thursday.

Brock is at state for the first time in two years and fourth since 2001. Bushland, here for the third consecutive season, fell to eventual champion Cameron Yoe in the semifinals a year ago.

 
 

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