AUBREY — Head coach Jason Russell’s Melissa Cardinals drew a tough start to the 2018 district race, opening on the road at Bonham and Aubrey. But with their gutsy 5-3 defeat of Aubrey on Friday, March 23, the team now finds itself atop District 11-4A with a 2-0 mark.

“It’s always tough to win a district game,” Russell said. “It’s especially tough when you have to win them on the road. That goes to our senior leadership. Those guys have been here for a little while so they know what to expect. … It was a great job by these guys, coming out and grinding and getting two victories in a row.”

A lot of the credit for road-show win No. 2 goes to starting pitcher Andrew Cole who hurled a five-hit complete game — with six strikeouts and two walks — and worked out of some potentially deep kimchee in the sixth inning. That’s when the Chaps, down 5-0, put up three runs aided by an untimely error at first base. Then with two outs and two on, and after a visit to the mound by Russell, Cole struck out the next batter looking on a 3-2 pitch. “He is the ultimate bulldog and ultimate competitor out there,” Russell said. “He does a great job of keeping us in a lot of ball games. We played pretty good defense except for the sixth. We can’t have those big blow-up innings.”

Russell said he never considered taking Cole out of the game. “There was never a doubt. It wasn’t anything he did. He was throwing strikes, he was missing barrels. It was just a matter of calming everyone else down — and him. I go out there and tell a little joke and kind of lighten the mood a little bit. But there was never a thought of going and getting him.”

Adam Davis swung the big bat for the Cards, going 3-for-4 with an RBI. Isaiah Segovia collected two hits in four at-bats with an RBI and Sean Turnage went 2-for-3. Cole helped himself with an RBI-double in the top of the sixth.

Cody Johnson went all the way on the mound for Aubrey, save for the final out, and allowed eight hits with three strikeout and three walks. The Chaps (0-2) suffered five errors to Melissa’s two.

Melissa broke on top, 1-0, in the first frame. Segovia got things going with a one-out single to left and moved to second on a wild pitch. After a strikeout, Davis’ single to left scored Segovia. The Cards added another run in the second after Turnage’s lead-off single, a bunt from Cole and Dillon Youngblood’s single to center field.

The score remained 2-0 until the sixth when Melissa erupted for three runs. That push started with Tyler Womack reaching base when Aubrey’s second baseman dropped a high infield pop-up followed soon by Cole’s run-scoring double to center field. Then, with two outs, Bobby Houston got aboard via another error, which allowed courtesy-runner Grayson Hurst to score from third. Up next, Segovia singled home Houston and, with a late 5-0 lead, the Cards seemed in control.

But Aubrey returned the three-run favor in its half of the sixth, opening with an infield single then a walk. Cole got the next batter to fly-out to Turnage in right but the next batter was hit by a pitch, loading the bases with one out. A single and a sacrifice fly to right made it 5-2 and the Chaps were down to their last out. They managed one more run on the error before Cole shut the door.

In the top of the seventh, Melissa loaded the bases with two outs on an error, a Turnage single and a hit batsman but all three were left stranded. In Aubrey’s seventh, third baseman Brady Morrison nabbed a pop-fly in foul territory for out No. 1 and Davis dug out a low throw to first for the crucial second out. Cole then closed it out, getting the final batter in the 1-2-3 half-inning on a fly ball to Whittington in center field.