HUNTSVILLE — JD Thompson came through in the clutch, and as a result the Rusk Baseball Eagles will be heading to Austin next week to play in the Class 4A state tournament.
This will be Rusk's first trip to state in school history.
The Eagles (27-7) put away Bellville (28-9-1), 2-1, on Wednesday evening at Sam Houston State University's Don Sanders Stadium to win the Region III Championship.
Thompson, a junior, has established himself as one of the top pitchers in East Texas this season and he, once again, didn't disappoint on the mound, but it was his offensive productivity that exceeded expectations on Wednesday.
With Wade Williams on first base, after leading off the fourth inning with a single to the left side, Thompson clubbed the only extra-base hit of the game when he lifted a Brett Heintschel pitch out to deep center field that resulted in a triple and sent Williams in to score the first run of the evening.
Thompson latched on to the pitch and knocked it well over the head of Brahmas' center fielder, with the ball rolling all the way to the wall.
Tarrant Sunday kept things going for the Eagles when he stroked a base hit into left center, easily scoring Thompson from third.
Heintschel then retired the next-three Eagles that he faced to get out of the jam.
The Brahmas kept supporters of both teams on the edge of the chairs for a little while after Carson Peschel drew a walk, one of only three free passes issued by Thompson, to lead off the fifth. Peschel stole second to quickly move into scoring position.
With two outs and Rusk on the verge of getting out of the frame undinged, Peschel was able to score on a Rusk throwing error, which cut the Eagle lead in half.
Thompson, who was pitching in front of several scouts from major league baseball clubs, got the next Bellville batter to fly out to center fielder Bryce Lenard to end the inning.
The Brahmas went down one, two, three in the sixth, but were able to get the lead-off batter aboard in the top of the seventh.
The first base umpire originally called Brandt Okonski out via an infield ground out, but after the Bellville manager objected, the first base umpire conferred with the man in blue behind the dish and viola, the call was reversed, and Okonski was credited with a base hit.
Thompson got the next Brahma out by fielding a bunt that was on the third base side of the mound and firing it to Sunday at first base for the first out of the inning. Okonski moved over to second on the sacrifice.
The following-two Bellville batters struck out, giving the Rusk lefty, who has verbally committed to Vanderbilt University, his sixth and seventh Ks in the affair, to end the game.
Rusk batters accounted for nine hits, with Will Dixon, Brett Rawlinson, Landon Gates, Sunday, Lenard and Thompson hitting singles.
A base hit in the second inning by Riley Mijewski accounted for Bellville's other hit.
The state semi-final games are scheduled for 1 and 4 p.m. on Wed., June 9 at UFCU Disch-Falk Field on the University Texas Austin campus.