LA GRANGE - Blaine Caka had only one thought on his mind when he came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning.
"Just put it in play, get on base and knock the run in," Caka said. "Just get the bat on the ball and do the best you can do."
Caka hit a two-out, two-strike single into center field to score Matt Pohler from second base and lift Shiner to an 8-7 win over Thrall in Game 3 of their best-of-three Class 1A regional quarterfinal series on Saturday at Fairgrounds Park.
Caka's single capped an amazing comeback for the Comanches (25-7), who were down to their last out four times before advancing to the regional semifinals against Ben Bolt, which defeated D'Hanis 2-1 in a best-of-three game series.
Shiner scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game at 6, the last two coming on a two-out single by Wesley Patek. After the Tigers (22-11) had taken the lead in the top of the ninth, the Comanches rallied again with two outs.
"That's one thing we've always talked about," said Shiner coach Daniel Boedeker. "It's never over until that last out is made and I think they're taking that to heart and hopefully it will continue."
Shiner combined for 11 hits on Friday when it took a 2-1 win in Game 1 and dropped a 6-2 decision in Game 2.
The Comanches' struggles at the plate continued into the seventh inning of Game 3. Shiner had three hits through six innings against Thrall starter Tucker Lovelace. The Comanches were unable to take advantage of five walks by Lovelace, going 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position.
"We were trying to make adjustments at the plate and I think we were pressing a little bit," Boedeker said. "We fell behind and everybody pressed a little bit at the plate and the pitcher did a good job of mixing it up on us. At the end our adjustments came through."
The lack of a big hit was extremely frustrating for the first four batters in Shiner's order. With the exception of Coy Boedeker, who went 5 for 5 in Game 3 and 7 for 12 in the series, the top of the lineup was 1 for 24 heading into the seventh.
"It's tough whenever you have runners in scoring position and can't get them there. It's hard on you and hard on the team," Caka said. "We might have been a little nervous. It was just getting our timing down and finally we came through in this game."
Shiner's rally in the seventh came after Thrall coach Jeff Doege decided to replace Lovelace in favor of Game 1 starter Aaron Kirby.
"I thought he was throwing OK, but once again we had trouble hitting that guy yesterday," Daniel Boedeker said. "I could see why he did that."
Kirby didn't make the inning before being relieved by Game 2 starter Colton Mikulencak. The Comanches got hits from Brady Cejka, Boedeker and Patek and took advantage of an error, a walk and a hit batsman.
"Our kids didn't quit and we got the four runs," Daniel Boedker said. "I thought they felt we had a chance to win this thing after coming back and they pulled through."
Shiner left the bases loaded in the eighth and Thrall regained the lead in the ninth on a two-out RBI single by Lovelace off of reliever Ky Sandelovic.
Sandelovic, who threw 90 pitches in winning Game 1 on a three-hitter, relieved Patek in the fifth and went the final four innings to earn his second win of the series.
"Wesley hasn't thrown a whole lot of innings for us," Boedeker said. "We were going one inning at a time with him and we felt if he could go four or five good innings we still had Ky and Joey (Gamez) to bring back if we needed to."
Patek reached on a one-out error in the ninth and went to second a groundout by Jake Jalufka. Pohler then hit a roller that the third baseman bobbled and the ball bounced away, allowing Patek to score. Pohler broke for second and was safe on an errant throw by the catcher.
Caka got behind in the count 1-2 before hitting a Minkulencak fastball up the middle. Pohler slid home to complete Shiner's second consecutive playoff comeback.
"You just keep mental toughness and keep focus and just come in whenever you need to come in," Caka said. "I haven't been in one of this caliber. It's just extremely exciting. There are butterflies everywhere."
Class 1A Regional Quarterfinals Game 3 Shiner 8, Thrall 7 (9) Thrall 400 010 101 - 7 12 5 Shiner 000 110 402 - 8 9 3 Two outs when winning run scored Tucker Lovelace, Aaron Kirby (7), Colten Mikulencak (7) and Hayden Caffey. Wesley Patek, Ky Sandelovic (5) and Cuatro Rankin. W: Sandelovic (11-2). L: Mikulencak. Highlights: (T) T. Lovelace 6 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 5 BB, 7 Ks, 2 for 5, 2B, RBI; Branson Chandler 1 for 4, 2B, 3 RBIs; Caffey 2 for 4, 2 R; Aaron Kirby 3 for 4, 2B, 2 R; Mikulencak 2 for 5, 2 RBIs. (S) Blaine Caka 2 for 4, game-winning RBI; Coy Boedeker 5 for 5, 2B, 2 R, RBI; Patek 1 for 4, R, 2 RBIs. Records: Thrall 22-11; Shiner 25-7. Note: Shiner advances to regional semifinals.