MELISSA – Melissa reliever Hayden Schafer and left fielder Dillon Youngblood combined to kill a late Home School Athletic Association rally on Friday and the Cardinals came away with a 5-4 win. The game, played in heavy-duty northwest winds and chilly temps at the Melissa Sports Facility, closed out the Cards’ non-district slate and boosted their record to 13-5.


Melissa took a 5-3 lead into the seventh inning, but things got dicey when the Angels’ lead-off batter reached on an error, a walk ensued and a passed ball sent a runner to third with nobody out. After a sacrifice fly scored a run and another walk followed, this one looked to be slipping away for the Cards. But Schafer, who’d come on in the sixth with that 5-3 lead, kept battling and worked ahead to Joseph Coon, 0-2. After fouling off the next pitch, Coon sent a shot looping into shallow left-center that had “base hit” tattooed all over it. But just when it looked like the ball would get through, Youngblood, charging to his left, made a diving turf-top catch and threw out the runner caught off second base. And just like that, this one was over.


“What a great way end the game,” Melissa head coach Jason Russell said, “especially for a guy that didn’t have the game he wanted to at the plate. He didn’t let that affect him. That’s something we’ve talked about all year.”


Said HSAA head coach Todd Smith, “We did some things good, and we struggled. The wind was tough today. We had a couple too many errors but otherwise, we played a pretty good game. … We thought the ball [to Youngblood] was down at the end. Unfortunately, he made a great catch.”


The Cards had shown resiliency in quickly reclaiming a 5-3 edge after HSAA came back from a 3-1 hole to tie it in the fifth. In the bottom that inning, singles by Grayson Hurst and Trevor Brooks delivered Melissa’s pair of go-ahead RBIs.


Russell said these types of games are what he expects to see in district. “It’s going to be a knockdown-dragout, so I’m glad that we’ve gotten to experience and fight through some of this adversity. It’s always good when they have to battle and compete, fight and scratch to find a way to win a game.”


Schafer allowed one hit and one run in his two innings of work, striking out one and walking two. “We haven’t really used him in that situation before,” Russell said, “so it was good for him to get some of that feeling before we get into district play - some high-intensity situations. … I’m glad he got to experience that today.”


The Cards sent three pitchers to the mound. “We wanted to go in and throw a bunch of guys,” Russell said, “because they haven’t gotten to throw in a while.” The idea, he said, was to not really extend anybody but make sure they got some live action with district action looming.


Hurst opened with two no-hit innings, striking out one and walking two, then gave way to Kyle Leonard. Leonard worked three frames, permitting two hits and two runs, with one K and no walks, and left with the 5-3 lead. Russell said he was pleased with what he saw from both Hurst and Leonard. “That’s just typical of what they’ve done all year. It was good against a team that swings the bat really well.”


Two HSAA pitchers combined for seven strikeouts and three walks while allowing six hits.


Hurst and Jayton Cepica both went 2-for-3 at the plate for Melissa, while Cepica, Schafer, Brooks and Coy DeFury collected an RBI apiece.


After the Angels grabbed a 1-0 lead in the second inning, Cepica and Isaiah Segovia led off the bottom of the frame with singles. Then with one out, Schafer’s grounder to short scored Cepica, and Segovia would come home on a passed ball for Melissa’s 2-1 lead. In the third, Leonard sat HSAA in order and the Cards picked up another run on a DeFury sacrifice bunt to the pitcher.


When the Angles tied it, 3-3, in the fifth, shortstop Segovia’s diving stab on a ball up the middle saved a run.


Asked to describe his team now that non-district play is complete, Russell said, “We compete. We find ways to win games. Sometimes we look like we’re out of it and we find a way to win late. Right now, if we limit those big innings we’ve had in those losses, we have a chance to be pretty good.”


HSAA, based in Plano, provides competitive athletic opportunities for home-schooled kids. Angels baseball won the Texas Private School Classic Gold Division championship in February.


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