SUNNYVALE — The Melissa Cardinals continue to make school history and they have saved their best performance of the year for last by reaching the regional finals in their first year playing at the 3A level.
Despite a slow start, the Cardinals never trailed on their way to a 12-8 win against Spring Hill in Game 2 of the 3A Region II semifinal sweep of the Panthers.
Melissa (29-8) will face Texarkana Pleasant Grove in the region final later this week. Pleasant Grove knocked off the Cardinals’ district mate, Princeton, by winning Game 3 of their series — denying Collin County fans a local showdown of the two titan teams.
Spring Hill (18-15) 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-run double. Regan finished with three RBI
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 its lead to three in the fourth inning on a balk that advanced the runners.
The Cardinals came to bat in the top of the sixth with the same 3-0 advantage but the bats came alive in the last two innings and made for an exciting finish.
In the top of the sixth, Camden Duzenack crushed a two-run double to left field that gave Melissa some insurance runs. Duzenack scored a few plays later to put the Cardinals up 6-0.
Spring Hill’s bats finally came to life in the bottom of the frame. 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 walks 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.
C.J. Tyler had a double, Garrett Vestal drove in a run and Chris Smith and Grant Meeks each scored twice for Melissa.
The Panthers again refused to go out without a fight though, scoring four runs in the seventh before Zach Torres closed out the game with a strikeout to give Melissa the series win.