SUNNYVALE – The Cardinals continue to do things they have never done before, and they have saved their best performance of the year for last with their baseball team making it to the regional finals in their first year playing at the Class 3A level.
Melissa (29-8) took on Spring Hill (18-15) on Thursday and Saturday in the regional semis. The Cardinals won the series opener 7-5 on Thursday night in Linndale by taking a 5-0 lead after the first inning.
Melissa will take on Pleasant Grove Texarkana in the regional finals at Northeast Texas Community College in Mt. Pleasant. The best-of-three series begins Thursday at 7 p.m with Game 2 Friday at 7 p.m. Game 3, if necessary, will be played at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
Needing just one win to capture the series, Melissa took the field at Sunnyvale on Saturday and despite a slow start, the Cardinals never trailed on their way to a 12-8 win and series sweep of the Panthers.
When the games began on Saturday, the Cardinals faced an interesting scenario. On the other side of the playoff bracket was Princeton taking on Pleasant Grove in Paris.
Melissa and Princeton were the only two teams from the same district still in the State playoffs – a testament to the strength of the district. Princeton fell in their first game of the series, won the second and could not pull off a win in the decisive third game – denying Collin County fans a local showdown of the two titan teams.
Instead, Melissa will advance to the Elite Eight match up against Texarkana Pleasant Grove. Times and location for the series have not yet been released.
Spring Hill came into the series an underdog, barely finishing over 500 in their regular season and the strength of the Cardinals shined through on Saturday.
After a quiet first inning, Landon Wilson got the first hit of the game, singling in the top if the second inning. Cory Regan came to bat with two on base and ripped a long fly ball to left field for a two-RBI double.
Spring Hill looked to knot up the game, with two players in scoring position but Landon Wilson closed out the frame with a strikeout and the Cardinals took their two run advantage into the third. After a scoreless third, the Cardinals defense continued their shutout and closed out the inning with another Wilson strikeout.
Melissa extended their lead to three in the fourth inning on a balk call that advanced the runners.
The Cardinals came to bat in the top of the sixth with the same 3-0 lead but the bats came alive in the last two innings and made fur an exciting finish.
In the top of the sixth, Camden Duzenack crushed a two-run RBI to left field that gave Melissa some insurance runs. Duzenack scored a few plays later to put the Cardinals up 6-0.
Looking like the rest of the game was just a formality, Spring Hill came to life in the bottom of the frame, clawing their way back into contention. With runners at first and second, the Panthers scored their first run of the game with a single to center field by Eli Reagh.
Three singles and a sac fly later Spring Hill came within two but was unable to complete the rally and the inning ended with Melissa leading 6-4.
Melissa took advantage of the tired Panther pitching squad with a six-run seventh inning – half of which came on walk in runs with the bases loaded – and the Cards took a commanding 12-4 lead into the last half inning, needing just three outs to secure the series sweep.
The Panthers again refused to go out without a fight though, scoring four runs in the seventh but it was not enough and Zach Torres closed out the game with a strike out to give Melissa the series win.