MELISSA — In a game moved up a day due to forecast storms, senior Princeton ace Austin Hitchcock was nearly unhittable for the six innings he worked versus Melissa on Monday, March 26. His three-hit turn on the mound at the Melissa Sports Facility and the Panthers’ five-run third inning combined to thump the Cardinals, 7-1, and keep Princeton undefeated in District 11-4A.

“He’s been pitching on the varsity for four years,” first-year Princeton head coach Leroy Mansanales said of Hitchcock. “I’m new this year and from what I’ve seen of him that’s the kind of outing you’re going to get. He gives us a great chance to win every time he’s on the field. … I think it’s huge for us to keep rolling. The guys have been playing really well. These are the guys [Melissa] we’re going to have to compete against for the top spot in the district. They’re no doubt a good team.”

Melissa and Anna are now knotted at 2-1 in district play with a Cards-Coyotes showdown coming Friday at 1 p.m. at Anna.

Hitchcock struck out seven and walked two — with a lone error-aided run permitted in the first inning. He gave way to Arturo Ramirez for the final three outs.

“You can’t have blow-up innings versus guys like that,” Melissa head coach Jason Russell said. “We’ve escaped them so far then they make us pay tonight. We’ve got to be better. I’ve got to be better, making sure we’re ready to go and ready to play. I don’t feel like we were ready to play tonight, so that’s on me. We’ll bounce back from it and we’ll compete on Friday.”

Starter Krisjon Segleski went all seven innings for the Cards, allowing 10 hits while posting five strikeouts with no walks.

After Segleski’s 1-2-3 first inning, Isaiah Segovia singled in Melissa’s half of the frame and Tate Whittington followed with a walk. That brought to the plate Adam Davis who grounded to second and reached on an error, scoring Segovia.

The Cards’ lead held until the third. After the Panthers’ first batter that inning lined out to Whittington in center field, Adam Morton sent a triple to left. A single followed, sending Morton home with the tying run. Nathan Roets’ bunt-single put runners at first and second and a fielder’s choice moved them both into scoring position. A Hitchcock single to right then gave the Panthers the lead — and it would be for good. Two doubles followed before the at-bat ended with Princeton up, 5-1.

Cardinal batters were retired in order in the third and fourth frames as Hitchcock settled in. In the fifth, Cole opened with a single but was stranded after stealing second.

Segleski retired the side in order in the sixth but the Panthers were back for more in the seventh. After the lead-off batter was thrown out at first on a dropped third strike, three straight singles moved Princeton’s advantage to 6-1. A sacrifice fly to right made it 7-1 before Segleski struck out Hitchcock to end the half-inning. In Melissa’s sixth and seventh, the Cards’ two baserunners came via walks.