Looking to continue its unbelievable success in its first year of Class 3A competition, Melissa (29-9-1) took on the Pleasant Grove Hawks at Eagle Field at Northeast Texas Community College on Thursday night and saw a winning streak fly away with a 4-2 loss in extra innings.
Pleasant Grove (26-13), the district champion from 13-3A, was able to secure three runs in the final three innings to tie the score and extend the game and, ultimately, rally to win.
Melissa came into the game with a perfect record in the playoffs and looking to win the Region 2, 3A championship and advance to the state tournament for the first time in school history. Now, the Cardinals will have to win two straight with their next opportunity coming at 7 p.m. on Friday at NETCC. A Game 3 will be played on Saturday at 2 p.m., if necessary.
The Hawks started off the game off with a screaming line drive up the right field line that landed Alex Alsup on first base; however, Pleasant Grove was unable to take advantage of the fast start and finished the first inning scoreless. Trey Jeans walked to start the second inning and, after advancing through the bases, he came in courtesy a Jarod Bayless RBI single through the gap to help the Hawks get on the board first.
Their lead didn’t last long, however, as Camden Duzenack came to the plate in the bottom of the third with his big bat in hand. There were two outs and Cory Regan was at second after taking a full-count walk when Duzenack knocked a fastball over the big wall in left field to give Melissa a 2-1 lead. Unfortunately for the Cards, the pair were the only runners to come home in the game.
Both teams went three-up, three-down in the fourth and fifth innings. In the top of the sixth, Jeans hit a sacrifice ground out that brought Ty Harp in for the tying run.
Melissa closed out the top of the seventh inning strong, keeping the go-ahead run from scoring with Regan perfectly fielding a grounder and tossing it to Zach Torres to give the Cardinals one more chance to put the game away.
Chris Smith, the first Cardinals batter of the inning, hit a fly to center field that should have been fielded but was mishandled and put the winning run at first. Landon Wilson came to bat and hit the ball to the shortstop who tossed it to second for the out.
Wilson advanced to third after a sacrifice bunt from Grant Meeks but the inning ended with an infield ground-out and the game went into extra innings.
After seven strong innings, Cade Cruce was relieved at the mound by Wilson to start the eighth, and the first two Hawk batters found a place on base. Melissa got two quick outs afterwards, however, and was ready to put the inning away when Bayless came up big again for Pleasant Grove — this time with a two-run single that was dropped in right field to give the Hawks the advantage.
Melissa got the next batter out but the damage had been done and the Cardinals needed two runs just to keep the game going. Three straight batters had no luck against the defensive-minded Hawks, who went on to get the 4-2 win and take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series.
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