ARGYLE — Decatur rallied for two runs in the fifth inning for its first lead of the game then hung on to win, 4-3, over Melissa Saturday, wrapping up this best-of- three series for a Class 4A Region II Area title. The Cards led, 3-2, after five-and- half innings on the strength of an Adam Davis line-drive RBI single in the third inning. Davis had also kept Decatur at bay from the mound, mixing his fastball and off-speed pitches to great effect. But, once ahead, the Eagles soon called on their hard-throwing ace, Howard College-commit Bryce Elder, to close it out — and that he did, cruising through the last four outs with 15 pitches.
“We had them exactly where we wanted them,” Melissa head coach Jason Russell said. “We just didn’t get a couple of safety squeezes down. That was pretty much the difference in the game. We knew once they got the lead that they would bring Elder in. That’s exactly what happened. And they got him late, so that’s exactly what they wanted.”
With the series victory, Decatur (24-9) advances to face the Aubrey-Sanger winner in the regional quarterfinals next week.
“First of all, I just want say Coach Russell does a phenomenal job over there with those guys,” Decatur head coach Brian Tickell said. “They battled their tails off and we were fortunate to stay in the game. We weren’t pitching real well at the beginning but (sophomore starter) Wilson Hicks settled down and threw more strikes and got guys off balance. And then we got a chance to go to Elder for an inning-and- a-third. I’m just proud of our guys not giving up in that first inning after two runs down. They just battled back.”
Melissa loaded the bases in that first inning with two walks and a hit batsman. Dalton Vestal then came home on a wild pitch, followed by Andrew Cole’s sacrifice fly to left that scored Brady Morrison from third, giving the Cards a 2-0 lead. The Eagles answered with two in second frame, kicked off by Hicks’s lead-off triple to center. Then, after a walk and a hit batter, Eddie Fernandez’s single sent Jaxon Terrell home with Decatur’s first run. With the bases still loaded, another walk sent the Eagles’ tying run across the plate.
In the decisive bottom of the fifth inning, trailing, 3-2, Decatur loaded the bases on two singles and walk. Hicks then walked on four pitches, bringing home another tying run. The eventual game-winner came on a Terrell fly ball to left, which allowed Trey Penny to tag up and score.
Davis, a junior, went 5.2 innings, allowing six hits and five walks with five strikeouts.
“I couldn’t ask for any more out of him,” Russell said. “He hadn’t had to throw a lot of innings this year. He hadn’t had to stretch out very much in this kind of situation. But he’s got really good stuff and a really bright future.”
Decatur’s Hicks went 5.2 innings as well, allowing one hit and six walks, with three strikeouts.
“I’m really proud of our guys for competing, battling back from a 10-0 run-rule in Game 1, finding a way to make it work in Game 2 and then getting out there right in the thick of it in an exciting game,” Russell said.
The 2017 Cards, district and bi-district champions from 11-4A, finish the season at 17-15- 1.
“Man, they’re just special,” Russell said. “We took some lumps early in some big tournaments. We found ways to win.”
As for the future, he said, “We lose two starters, (Cody Jackson and Dalton Vestal). You lose probably the best practice player we have in Austin Leonard. So you lose three good ones. But we’ve got the core back, so the future is bright.”
Game 2: Cards’ gutsy win forces Game 3
ARGYLE — Decatur’s Eagles may have thought they were done with Melissa after their 10-0 Game 1 win in the Class 4A Region II Area playoffs on Thursday. Cardinals head coach Jason Russell, pitcher Andrew Cole and Cole’s teammates thought otherwise. In Friday’s Game 2, a gritty Melissa squad (17-14- 1) led all the way and booted the Eagles, 4-2, to force a Game 3 on Saturday. Cardinal stars in this one were numerous, including: the strike-throwing Cole, who tamed Decatur’s challenging lineup from the get-go; Sean Turnage, Melissa’s 8-hole hitter, who belted a two-run single up the middle in the sixth inning to give the Cards a 4-1 lead; Adam Davis, whose first-inning, two-run single gave Melissa the early advantage; catcher Krisjon Segleski, who threw out two Decatur runners — one at third, one at second — to preserve a tenuous Cards lead; and reliever Tate Whittington who started the seventh inning and powered through tense bases-loaded jams for the win.
Cole scattered four hits over six innings and walked three, with two strikeouts. He set the tone early with a one-two- three first frame, striking out Decatur’s lead-off hitter and getting the next two on pop flies.
“Andrew Cole, man, he’s been our horse all year,” Russell said. “The kid is special. He competes, he gives you everything he has — every day. He started kind of running out of gas about the fourth or fifth. He started getting tired, they were working his count a little bit. But he gutted up … and he got us a chance to go get the save with Tate. I’m really proud of them. Talk about a group effort: bottom of the order, Sean Turnage comes in with a huge two- RBI hit and it proves to be the difference in the game.”
“I was nervous before the game,” Cole said. “But once I got out there I let it all go and I just played. … We had to come out focused today and that’s what we did.”
Decatur starter Jaxon Terrell, a Tarleton State-commit, allowed just two hits in five innings but struggled with his control, finishing with six walks, a hit batsman and several pitches in the dirt. Trailing, 2-1, he was relieved by Beau Bedford in the sixth.
In Melissa’s first at-bat, back-to- back walks to Brady Morrison and Whittington put the Cards in business. After a wild pitch sent Morrison to third and Whittington to second, Davis stepped in and drilled a two-strike pitch into right field to bring them both home.
“I wasn’t trying to pull anything,” Davis said. “He gave me a pitch outside and I took it away, ended up getting runs scored.”
The score remained 2-0 until the third inning when Decatur’s Eddie Fernandez sent a double down the right field line to move a run home from third. The Eagles threatened more with Fernandez at third and one out but Cole worked out of it, coaxing a pop-up to Cody Jackson at second and a ground out to third baseman Isaiah Segovia.
Decatur (23-9) looked to tie or take the lead again in the fifth but that’s when Segleski chopped down the Eagle runner trying to steal third. That second out proved more than timely as, two pitches later, Decatur’s Alec Uselton ripped a double to center. Cole then got out of the inning on a ground ball to shortstop Dalton Vestal.
“He was huge tonight,” Russell said of Segleski, who also nailed a runner in the third inning. “Not a lot guys have tried to run on him this year. … He’s grown so much as a catcher this year. He was an outfielder last year. He’s still finding his way and he’s improving each and every day.”
In the sixth, first baseman Whittington gummed up another potential Decatur threat by running down and reaching back for a ball in foul territory for the second out. Two pitches later, Beau Bedford popped up to Jackson.
When Terrell dinged Cole with a pitch to open the bottom of the sixth, he was done. Bedford came on in relief and promptly gave up a single to left by Grayson Hurst, which moved courtesy-runner Austin Leonard to second. Turnage then slapped his 2-RBI, eventual game- winner to center field.
“Their pitcher just came in and he was throwing a lot of fastballs,” Turnage said. “I think he threw the first one for a ball and I was making sure that he was going to throw a fastball down the middle.”
Now up, 4-1, in the seventh, Whittington walked the first two batters he faced before fanning Uselton for a crucial out. Decatur’s Tyler Ticknor then ratcheted the tension by loading the bases with a sharp shot just out of Cole’s reach at third. Another walk gave the Eagles a run before Whittington, with the bases still loaded, struck out Derek Potts for perhaps the biggest out of the series. A ground out to Segovia at second ended the game.
“Today, we decided to show up and play,” Davis said of the Cards’ big turnaround.
Added Turnage, “We can come back. We have momentum in the next game and we just need to get after it. They don’t have their ace on the mound anymore. We can take them.”
Russell said that after Decatur’s blow-out win on Thursday he reminded his team of three years ago, when Krum run-ruled the Cards in Game 1 of the Area round before Melissa took the series on Saturday.
“A lot of these guys were on that team,” he said. “They weren’t huge role players but they were there and they witnessed it. … Just because something bad happens to us doesn’t mean the series is over, the season’s over. We rally from it. Anything happens in baseball.”
Game 1: Decatur’s Elder one-hits Cards in dominant style
ARGYLE — Decatur ace Bryce Elder cruised through Melissa’s lineup on Thursday, May 11, at Argyle High School, allowing one hit and a walk as the Eagles romped to a 10-0 win in Game 1 of a best-of- three set in the Class 4A Area playoffs. Trey Penny’s two-run double off Cardinal reliever Krisjon Segleski in the bottom of the sixth inning triggered the run rule, ending the contest and a 10-game win streak for district-champion Melissa.
“We’ve just got to relax,” Cards head coach Jason Russell said. “We came in, we knew Elder was going to be really good. It’s the reason he’s going to Howard (College). We didn’t have some things go our way early, and really throughout the game. Then we just kind of let it unravel a little bit. We’ve just got to clean it up a little bit. We’ll be fine tomorrow.”
The Eagles (23-8) jumped on Melissa starter Brady Morrison early, striking for three runs in their first at-bat. Decatur came back for four more in the fourth and Segleski came on in the sixth. The Cardinal pitchers allowed two hits each for a combined five earned runs, but three Melissa errors were costly. Morrison also walked six, including three in the first and three in the fourth — big scoring innings for the Eagles.
“It’s the first time he’s pitched on this stage — good team, big round,” Russell said. “I think (he had) a little jitters early, then he calmed down a little bit. Then he got some pitches up and they made it hurt. We got sloppy around him, defensively. … (Decatur) made a bunch of good plays. They did what they needed to do, and we didn’t.”
Elder went the whole way for the Eagles, dismissing nine Cards via strikeout. In his previous outing, against Dallas Pinkston in Friday’s bi-district round, Elder logged a no-hitter in the five- inning 14-0 win.
“He’s a good one, he really is,” Decatur head coach Brian Tickell said. “He has some velocity with his fastball, but he can also throw his breaking pitches over for a strike. When you have two pitches like that in high school, you’re going to be more successful than not. He’s just a competitor. I’m sure he’s real upset about that walk. I love him to death. I can’t say enough about that kid.”
Asked what he expected from his team in this first game of the Area series, Tickell said, “I felt like we were going to throw the ball well on the mound, I thought we were going to play good defense and I was hoping we would scratch a few runs. I really didn’t expect (a run-rule win). We didn’t just absolutely hammer them. I thought the Morrison kid did a great job keeping us off balance. But I wasn’t expecting the 10 runs. Tomorrow’s going to be a little different, I think.”
Grayson Hurst collected the Cards’ lone hit, beating out a grounder to the left side in the fifth. He was later thrown out trying to steal second by Decatur catcher Tucker DuBois. To open that inning, Melissa’s Andrew Cole was robbed of a hit when his sharp line drive to right-center was speared by a diving Tyler Ticknor.
In the first inning, Wilson Hicks’ single to left field brought home Ticknor from second base for the Eagles’ first run. Jaxon Terrell followed with another single to left that scored Derek Potts and Hicks. The frame ended on a double play when DuBois flied out to Melissa’s Sean Turnage in right and Beau Bedford was thrown out advancing to second after tagging up. Walks and two Cardinal errors in the fourth helped boost Decatur’s lead to 7-0.