MELISSA – In a game Melissa’s district-champion Cardinals didn’t have to win on Tuesday, April 25, they did what they’ve done for nine-straight games now – win anyway. The 5-1 victory over Celina’s Bobcats put a nice 9-1 bow on the Cards’ memorable district season, one that featured four 1-run wins, with three of them in a row.

“I’m really proud of these guys,” Melissa head coach Jason Russell said. “They go to work each and every day. They compete, find ways to win — whether we’re down six in the seventh or down two in the seventh, it doesn’t matter. We find ways to win. I couldn’t be more proud of them. … Just getting out here and competing and getting another win is big for us,” Russell said, adding that his team had plenty to play for — namely beating the rival Bobcats, a squad battling for its playoff life.

The Cards’ first playoff opponent is Quinlan Ford at noon on Saturday, May 6, at Rockwall High School. With the loss, Celina (4-6) tied Aubrey for the fourth playoff seed from District 11-4A.

Melissa pitcher Andrew Cole spread seven hits over seven complete innings this night while striking out seven and walking no one. The Bobcats’ lone run came off a solo homer in the fifth.

“I felt great,” Cole said. “The curve was looking good today. The fastball was breaking, it was moving a lot. Everything just felt good today.”

As for the Cards’ district dominance, Cole said, “It feels amazing. We’ve been working hard. It feels great to come out here and be the district champs. … At the beginning of the season, I knew we were going to be good. We just didn’t show it until district started. Then we got rolling.”

Adam Davis served up Melissa’s big blow from the plate this time, a two-run homer to left in the bottom of the third that put Melissa up, 4-0.

“I was just looking for a good pitch and he left one hanging, inside,” Davis said. “It was a curveball. I just pulled it.”

Sean Turnage and Grayson Hurst added two singles each for Melissa, while teammates Tate Whittington, Krisjon Segleski and Brady Morrison each logged a double. Celina starter Cade Medellin worked four innings before giving way to Mason Ray in the fifth. The Cards got to Medellin for eight hits and all five earned runs.

Melissa got rolling in the second inning when Segleski drove a pitch deep down the left field line to score Hurst from first base. Hurst had beaten out an infield grounder to reach base a batter earlier. Turnage then singled to left before the Cards’ second run came home on Isaiah Segovia’s fielder’s choice to short that scored courtesy-runner Austin Leonard.

In the third, after Whittington belted a 3-2 pitch to left for a double, Davis stepped to the plate and sent Medellin’s third offering deep over the left field fence. The Bobcats crept to within 4-1 in the top of the fifth, but Morrison’s double opened Melissa’s half of the frame. Whittington then walked and when soon caught in a pick-off play, his cat-and-mouse delay with Celina defenders allowed Morrison to steal home for the Cards’ fifth run.

Asked if he foresaw his team’s remarkable 2017 district run, Russell said, “You just try to win them all, try not to think about it. … It’s a tough district. Anybody can beat anybody on a given day. So you have to bring it every day or you’re not going to go 8, 9, 10-0.”

Russell said if he had to pick a game that best showed Melissa’s mettle so far, it was the 14-13 win over Aubrey on April 11. In that one, the Cards rallied for three last-at-bat runs to send the game to extra innings.

“We could have very easily packed it in,” he said. “We just found a way. That comes to mind a lot.”

The team’s approach all year, he said, has been, “Never give up. Never back down.”