CORPUS CHRISTI - Victoria East pitcher Kyle Craft viewed Ryan Williams' misfortune as an opportunity.
When Williams, who has signed with Texas State, was diagnosed with a torn labrum, sidelining him for the season, Craft knew he would be pitching against Calallen with a likely District 30-4A championship in the balance.
"I just took it like any other game," Craft said. "You can't take it any different out there. Just because they're ranked higher doesn't mean they're any different than us."
Craft did his job, pitching shutout ball for five innings. Unfortunately, he got no support from his offense, and the result was a 3-0 loss to the No. 2 Wildcats on Thursday night at Steve Chapman Field.
"You're playing for the district championship," said East coach Wes Kolle. "You're playing to win a championship. Yeah, we're glad we're in the playoffs, but it's time to go win a championship, and we didn't get it done tonight."
As a result, the Wildcats (28-3, 10-1) assured themselves of a share of the district title and the top seed in the playoffs.
The Titans (21-6, 9-2) dropped to 0-6 all time against Calallen and will be the second seed in the playoffs.
"It was ours for the taking," Craft said. "It was right there. It was meant for us after they lost to West. It was there for us to take it, and we just didn't get it done."
Craft did his best, limiting the Wildcats to one hit through five innings. He finished with seven strikeouts, walked two and hit two batters.
"This is what we expect from Crafty, and this is what he gives us," Kolle said. "Every time he gets on the mound, we've got a chance to win. We've just got to get some hits, some timely hits. But he pounds the zone; he lets the defense work; he works at a good rhythm. He does a great job."
The Titans had opportunities to score against Calallen starter Dylan Duarte. But they struck out nine times, had only two hits - doubles by Cole Urban and Jonathan Ortega - left eight runners on base and were 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position.
East went 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position in its 5-1 loss to Calallen earlier this season at Riverside Stadium. The Titans failed to record an RBI with a runner in scoring position in either game.
"That's been our story for the last few ballgames, for a couple weeks now and especially twice against these guys," Kolle said. "We got them on, got them over, couldn't get them in. The pitching and the defense were there - timely hitting was not."
Calallen broke through in the sixth inning when Chase Whetsel led off with a double and scored on a one-out single by Justice Flores. Mike Leal and Duarte added RBI singles.
"We knew that he throws in the mid-80s and has a good curveball," Calallen coach Steve Chapman said of Craft. "We were going to have to scratch and claw for runs, and that's what we did."
The Wildcats went 3 for 9 with runners in scoring position, and each of their hits produced a run.
"I was just trying to mix it up," Craft said. "They weren't going to overpower us. You've just got to let your defense work. They strung together a few hits, and that's what happened."
Without Williams, Craft will be back on the mound when East begins the playoffs, and Kolle is confident he can do the job.
"Kyle, he works hard every day," Kolle said. "He prepares himself for his starts. Man, he did his job; he really did. I tip my cap to him. I'm proud as heck of him. I'm glad that he's on my team and the effort that he gives it. We're going to need him to keep giving that effort if we're going to make a run. And the other guys are going to have to step up."
Calallen 3, Victoria East 0
Victoria East 000 000 0 - 0 2 0
Calallen 000 003 x - 3 5 2
Kyle Craft and Mason Tipton. Dylan Duarte and Ricky Arevelo. W: Duarte (7-0). L: Craft (6-2). Highlights: (C) Duarte 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 9 SO, 4 BB, 1 for 2, RBI. Justice Flores 2 for 3, R, RBI; Mike Leal 1 for 3, RBI; Chase Whetsel 1 for 1, 2B, 2 HP. (VE) Craft 6 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 7 SO, 2 BB, 2 HP; Cole Urban 1 for 2, 2B. Records: East 21-6, 9-2; Calallen 28-3, 10-1.