CRESTVIEW — There is plenty of soul searching for the Crestview High School baseball team to do this week on spring break.
The Class 7A Bulldogs have lost three of their last four games. The last of those losses came Tuesday when Class 1A Paxton beat Crestview 4-0.
Bobcat starting pitcher Grant Stewart and reliever Andrew Howell teamed up to limited the Bulldogs (7-7) to three hits while striking out 11 Crestview batters.
Stewart worked the first five innings and struck out 10 and gave up two hits to pick up the win.
Bulldog Coach Tim Gillis didn’t pull any punches after the loss.
“It’s not real good,” he said. “I can tell you that.
“I thought their pitcher was as good as I’ve seen all year. They did everything they had to, to win and we didn’t. I tip my hat to them.”
The teams were deadlocked through the first five innings as Crestview starting pitcher Justin Abdo and Stewart faced off in a classic pitchers’ duel.
What few batters reached base were erased by a good defensive play or simply stranded on base as the inning ended.
Twice, in the second and fifth innings, the Bulldogs had innings with runners thrown out trying to steal third base.
The Bobcats left runners on second and third in the third inning squandering an excellent scoring opportunity.
Paxton grabbed the momentum and the game with a three-run sixth inning that was fueled by what have become characteristic Bulldog mistakes.
Stewart led off the inning with an infield hit and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jesse Whitmire. A great play by Matt Gillis in center field robbed Howell of a base hit and run batted in for the second out of the inning.
Disasters struck just when it looked as if the Bulldogs would get out of the jam. A pair of Abdo wild pitches allowed Stewart to score.
A two-out walk to Kaleb Newborn kept the Bobcat inning alive. Back-to-back hits by Emory Anderson and Jeremiah Watkins scored Newborn.
Abdo was called for a balk with Anderson on third and Watkins on first allowing Anderson to score.
Crestview had the bases loaded on Howell with nobody out in the bottom of the sixth when Pierce Cadenhead connected for a leadoff single and Hunter Sullivan and Gillis drew back-to-back walks.
Corey Armstrong hit into a fielder’s choice that retired Cadenhead at home for the first out of the inning. Austin Armstrong popped out to short for the second out and Abdo popped out to right for the final out of the inning.
A pair of Bulldog errors allowed the Bobcats to pick up an unearned insurance run in the top of the seventh.
“We’ve done that (gift wrapped runs for the other team) time and time again,” Tim Gillis said. “We had the bases loaded there in the sixth with no outs and we were in a great situation. We had our best guys coming up, but we got nothing.
“We were unable to put any pressure on them right there. Obviously, they answered the call. I think they are a good baseball team.
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at email@example.com, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.