MELISSA — The Melissa Cardinals opened the first-annual Melissa Baseball Tournament in fine fashion on Thursday, March 8, at the Melissa Sports Facility. Besides collecting a 10-0 victory over Fort Worth Benbrook, the Cards furnished their head coach, Jason Russell, with his 100th career win. After the game, the players and coaches presented Russell a team-autographed bat and a home plate-shaped plaque to commemorate the occasion. Now in his fourth season at the Cards’ helm, Russell has also head-coached at Menard and Lamesa.
“It kind of snuck up on me,” Russell said. “Before the season starts you know it’s there then you start getting in the grind. I’m a little shocked by all the stuff I got. It’s just a testament to the community around here and these kids and these parents — the things they do for you when you reach a goal. It’s special.”
Special also was the Cards’ performance in this one, including starter Andrew Cole’s four innings of no-run, no-hit, no-walk pitching before Melissa batters run rule-ended it. “Andrew threw his tail off,” Russell said. “He goes out there and grinds. And when he has his stuff he’s really hard to barrel-up. He gets a lot of ground balls and awkward swings. He does a great job on the mound and gives you everything he’s got.”
Class 4A Benbrook used three pitchers, a group that allowed a combined six hits and six walks while striking out six. Bobby Houston led Melissa (8-5) at the plate, stroking three hits in three at-bats. Brady Morrison, Sean Turnage, Grayson Hurst and Tate Whittington had 1-for-2 turns with the bat, with Whittington’s hit going for a double.
Melissa’s four other tourney games are below, in order.
Cards 4, Crandall 0
Thursday night, Segleski hurled a two-hit shutout at a possible first-round playoff opponent, the Crandall Pirates. “The best thing about that was Krisjon didn’t have his best stuff,” Russell said. “He didn’t have his normal command. But he just grinded through it and, when he had to, made some good pitches. And we played good defense behind him. … That was impressive. It’s the first time he hasn’t had his command this year. That’s going to happen sometimes. If you can win without your best stuff, you know you’re working in the right direction.”
Offensively, Davis led the way with a 2 RBI, 2-for-3 night at the plate and the Cards collected seven hits all told. Melissa’s four runs came in the fourth inning. Segleski’s lead-off single to right field started the push and a sacrifice bunt from Hurst moved courtesy-runner Dillon Youngblood over to second. Isaiah Segovia reached on an error next then Houston’s single sent Youngblood home with the Cards’ first run. Whittington walked, loading the bases for Davis whose line-drive single to right scored two more. Morrison’s RBI-single to right boosted the lead to 4-0 before a Crandall double-play closed out the frame.
Argyle 10, Cards 0
The No. 1-ranked Class 4A team in Texas cruised past Melissa Friday morning. Argyle starter Bryson Hudgens two-hit the Cards and struck out six in the run rule-shortened four-inning contest. Eagles batters took charge early with three runs in the first and six in the second and finished with 11 hits, including four doubles and a triple.
Cards pitchers Morrison and Kyle Leonard split the four frames, with Morrison allowing eight hits and three walks with a strikeout and Leonard getting hit three times with two walks and a K. Houston and Tyler Womack tallied Melissa’s two singles.
Cards 11, Levelland 0
Friday night, Melissa run-ruled the Class 4A Levelland Lobos with a four-hit shutout administered by starting pitcher Sam Crain and an 11-hit wave by Cardinal hitters. Crain struck out four and walked two in the four-inning defeat of the Texas Panhandle team as Davis, Grayson Hurst, Segleski and Womack all doubled, Womack tripled and Whittington smashed a grand-slam home run. After Whittington’s team-leading 4 RBIs came Womack with 3. Davis, Womack and Segleski each posted two hits.
Cards 5, Saginaw 3
In Saturday night’s finale, Melissa (11-6) built a 5-0 lead then held off Class 5A Saginaw for their fourth win of the tournament. Two defensive gems by the Cards put down a brewing Rough Riders rally in the seventh inning. The first came on a rocket-shot line drive back to the mound that Cole stabbed with his glove just inches from his face. Then after a hit batsman and a strikeout, the next Saginaw hitter reached base on a single to right field. Down, 5-3, with two on, Luis Armendariz slapped a grounder to the left side of the infield but the throw to first pulled Segleski off the bag and Armendariz was safe.
As Cards fans began to mull the late base-loaded jam Melissa now faced, Segleski looked over, saw a runner in “no man’s land” between third and home, and fired across the diamond to third baseman Morrison who tagged-out the diving Rough Rider to end the game. “We let a ball sail on us and he kept playing,” Russell said of Segleski’s heads-up play. “That’s what we talk about – keep playing, it’s not over. That’s huge by him. He’s been so good defensively this year. He’s been locked in.”
Melissa used three pitchers this night, with Hurst getting the start and the win, followed by Davis then Cole. Hurst worked 4.1 innings, allowing three runs on two hits while striking out two and walking four. Davis closed out the fifth, permitting no runs, no hits and a walk, and Cole threw shut-out ball for the final two frames, with two Ks.