FRISCO — Much like in Game 2 of their regional quarterfinal series with Melissa, Argyle jumped out to a quick lead in Saturday’s decisive third game.
And much like in Friday night’s Melissa win, the Cardinals bounced back from the early deficit in a big way on Saturday to easily take Game 3, 13-4, in a Class 3A Region II quarterfinal match-up at Deeter Smothermon Field.
Melissa (27-8) will face Longview Spring Hill in the region semifinals later this week. It is the first time in program history that the Cardinals have reached the fourth round and it comes in their first season in 3A.
In a battle of No. 3 pitchers, it looked early on as if Argyle’s Parker Mushinski had settled into a nice groove, facing the minimum number of hitters through the first three innings as his offense gave him a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the third off Melissa pitcher Cade Cruce.
After that, the roles quickly reversed.
Cruce, who needed 32 pitches to navigate his way through the third inning, threw just 58 over the final four innings en route to a complete-game victory while also going 1-for-2 at the plate with a home run and three RBI.
"We weren’t going to pitch around anybody," Melissa head coach Joe Williams said. "We were going to go after them. If there’s anyone in our dugout that’s a competitor, it’s that kid [Cruce]. He’s the ultimate competitor. I think what he did at the plate this series gave him confidence and helped him out. When he got that lead, he just became a different pitcher."
Cruce allowed nine hits, but only three after the third inning in which two Melissa errors helped the Eagles take their 3-0 lead.
With a 5-3 lead going into the seventh inning, Dallas Baptist signee Camden Duzenack pushed Melissa’s cushion to three runs with an RBI single to bring Cruce to the plate. On a 1-1 offering from reliever, Drew Gooch, who started on Thursday, Cruce sent a two-run shot over the wall in left-center field.
But the damage was far from done as Melissa batted around in the seventh, eventually scoring eight runs, capped by Duzenack’s grand slam off Landon Rogers, his second home run in as many days, and his eighth RBI in the past two games.
"If you told me we would’ve had this many hits and home runs [in the series], I would’ve said there’s no way," Williams said. "Our kids were just seeing the ball so well. It was our series. They weren’t making awful pitches. We were keyed in."
Duzenack was 2-for-4 on Saturday with five RBI after falling a single short of hitting for the cycle with three RBI in Friday’s Game 2 victory.
"With two strikes, we knew they feed off strikeouts," Williams said of Argyle’s deep pitching staff, stacked with left-handers. "They have power arms. If we strike out, we knew we wouldn’t be victorious. We wanted to shorten up with two strikes and battle. We couldn’t chase junk. They’re pin-point. It was about just battling with two strikes. We did that down the order, and that set up the top of the order the entire series."
Argyle (29-5) had chances to add some more runs early in the game, but Melissa’s defense was rock-solid for much of the day, with the exception of the two third-inning errors.
In the second inning in what was still a scoreless game, Seth Jones was thrown out at home plate on a relay throw from Duzenack after Mushinski laced a single to center.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, trailing 4-3, Jones led the inning off with a double and advanced to third base on a one-out balk. With Mushinski at the plate again, he flew out to center fielder Landon Wilson, who made a strong throw home to catcher C.J. Tyler a little bit up the third base line to tag out Argyle’s courtesy runner for an inning-ending double play to preserve the one-run lead.
Melissa had forced a deciding third game with a 12-10 victory on Friday night.
Duzenack was 3-for-4, finishing a single shy of the cycle, and drove in three runs as the Cardinals rallied from an early deficit and held on.
Argyle had a 5-0 lead after two innings but Melissa scored six runs in the third. With the bases loaded and two outs, Wilson’s grounder was thrown away at first and four runs scored on the play to key the comeback.
The Eagles took a 7-6 lead in the bottom of the third but Melissa scored twice in the fourth and then four times in the fifth. Zach Torres earned the save when he induced a groundout with the bases loaded to end the game.