Generals cruise past Aces, clinch playoff berth
Independence Day is one where Americans celebrate explosions. The Victoria Generals put on a pyrotechnical show of their own Wednesday night, trumping the Aces from Alexandria 11-4.
As an added bonus, the win clinched a playoff berth in the Texas Collegiate League playoffs.
Trent Wagner hit two home runs. Chad Kruse added a third as the Generals unloaded on Alexandria starting pitcher Joey Kaufman. Six in the first, one in the second and four more in the third eventually chased Kaufman from the game.
"When Chad Kruse gets on base, our team goes," said Generals manager Chris Clemons. "He's a little spark plug. Everyone looks to him. His first at bat was a good one. To get Trent Wagner, who is a great baseball player, to get him hot and hitting the ball hard for us will be huge in the second half."
Kaufman was a spot starter Wednesday because Aces manager Freddy Rodriguez wanted to save his No. 1 starter Tyler Vail to begin the second half of the season. Entering Wednesday, Kaufman allowed five earned runs in 20 innings from the bullpen.
"I was trying to get my money's worth," Wagner said. "My coach at Kingsville told me to get your money's worth and don't go up there scared. That's what I've been doing since he said that."
Wagner, a Victoria Memorial graduate, has played Independence Day baseball at least 12 times. Afterward he said he's never had a July 4 like Wednesday, when he hit home runs in his first two at bats.
Wagner said his goal was to hit the ball hard Wednesday. "Luckily I got a hold of two and (I'm) grateful it happened. The season isn't over yet."
It's only getting started. The Generals closed the first half of the season with a 19-9 record. Meanwhile, fifth-place Alexandria fell to 12-18.
Wagner said it figures to be a fun summer with his team playing the way they are.
Eight of the nine Generals starters scored a run. Trace Knobloch was the only one who failed to score, but his sacrifice fly in the bottom of the first brought in Jude Vidrine.
Starting pitcher Trae Davis allowed no runs and three hits in four innings.
Clemons has known Davis for years, and considers him one of the best professional prospects in the TCL. The manager and his staff are working on situational pitching and the mental side to the craft with Davis this summer.
Jeremy Flores collected his first win of the season after relieving Davis to begin the fifth. Jake McMurtry threw two innings of relief and Tanner Green pitched a scoreless ninth. It was such a good night for the Generals pitching staff that reliever Kyle Chaskin led off the bottom of the seventh inning with a pinch hit single to right field.
"You always want to take care of your own business and let everything fall where it does," Clemons said. "We didn't want to rely on (Texas) beating the Bombers. It was nice to do it ourselves. Going into the off day, we don't have to scoreboard watch, it's all taken care of."
Victoria 11, Alexandria 4
Alexandria 000 001 030 - 4 9 1
Victoria 614 000 00x - 11 14 1
W: Flores 1-0
L: Kaufman 3-1
Jacob Kaufman, Devin Malone (3) and Ryan Wagner. Trae Davis, Jeremy Flores (5), Jake McMurtry (7), Tanner Green (9) and Andrew Stumph, Blue Hybner (7). HR: (Alexandria) Caleb Adams, (Victoria) Trent Wagner (2), Chad Kruse; 2B: (Alexandria) Adams, Rene Moreda, (Victoria) Kruse. Highlights: (Alexandria) Moreda 1-1, 2B, 3RBI, Adams 2-3, HR, 2B Kruse 3-5, 3R, 3RBI, Wagner 2-4, 2HR, 4RBI.