MELISSA — It was closer this time, but on Friday, April 20, Melissa’s Cardinals notched their second win of the season over rival Anna. By a count of 4-2 on an idyllic spring night at the Melissa Sports Facility, the playoff-bound Cards (7-2) solidified their hold on second place in District 11-4A with one game left in the regular season. The Coyotes, too, eventually had something to cheer about this night — with Bonham’s coinciding loss to Celina, Anna (4-5) bagged a playoff berth as the district’s fourth seed.
After a 1-1 first inning, Melissa pushed to a 4-1 lead after five then held off the Coyotes’ late rally try.
Melissa starter Krisjon Segleski worked 5.1 innings, posting seven strikeouts while permitting three hits and two walks. Brady Morrison closed it out, recording two strikeouts, one hit and a walk. Zach Howard went the distance for Anna, striking out six while allowing seven hits and two walks.
At the plate, Tate Whittington went 3-for-3 for the Cards with an RBI and three runs scored while Tyler Womack bagged three RBIs on a 2-for-2 night that included a first-inning double to tie the game at 1-1. Anna’s Rawley Hector posted a 2-for-3 outing as Howard and Dylan Burr picked up an RBI apiece — Howard on a first-inning double and Burr on a single in the sixth frame.
“Coach [Joey] Hector always has his guys ready to go,” Melissa head coach Jason Russell said. “They have a good team. Howard pitched really well. We were just fortunate enough to come through in some big-time situations in the middle of the order. Tyler Womack was unbelievable today. And it was really nice to see Tate get hot. It was a total team effort — and a great job by Brady coming in, shutting the door at the end.”
“It was a great game,” Hector said. “Both pitchers were pretty dominant. Both of those guys got on the mound and threw strikes and competed hard. … I’m proud of my guys. We had a major setback on Tuesday and to see these guys bounce back against a team the caliber of Melissa was very encouraging. Even though we lost the game, and it doesn’t help us get where we want to go, I was still encouraged by the way they came back and fought.
“[Howard] was awesome,” Hector said. “He’s been working on some stuff mechanically. All of our pitchers have. … He pitched well against [Melissa] the first time. Neither game, we gave him much run support. He hit the ball well tonight too. He was Zach Howard and I can’t say enough about Zach Howard.”
Melissa took its first lead in the third inning after Grayson Hurst led off with a walk and stole second. Whittington then stroked a single to the left side, scoring Hurst. After Isaiah Segovia sacrifice-bunted Whittington to second, Womack’s single to right brought Whittington home for a 3-1 Cards advantage. Howard struck out two of the next three batters to end the frame.
There the score remained until the bottom of the fifth when Whittington and Segovia got aboard with back-to-back singles. Womack then lined out to the right-fielder but Whittington tagged up and raced home for Melissa’s 4-1 lead.
Anna answered back in the sixth. Leading off, Hector walked on four pitches then stole second base. After a ground out to Womack at second, Howard was intentionally walked. That’s when Burr swatted an 0-1 pitch to right field, sending Hector home with what would be the Coyotes’ final run.
Russell then called on Morrison, who ended the threat with a strikeout and a grounder back to the pitcher. Howard retired the Cards in order in the bottom of the sixth.
In the seventh, after Morrison fanned Anna’s lead-off batter, Derek Kirschner reached base on a walk. A fielder’s choice picked off Kirschner at second, leaving Jaden Adams at first, but Hector followed with single to right to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. Morrison got the next batter to fly to left where Sean Turnage squeezed the ball to end the game.
The Cards wrap up district play on Tuesday, April 24, at Celina. “We still haven’t played a complete game yet,” Russell said. “We’ve got play a full seven innings. We were closer, but we’re still leaving too many runners on base, some little things. Defensively, it was really good and I thought both [pitchers] did really good. So that’s a plus. We’ve just got to keep building on the foundation we started.”
Anna hosts first-place Princeton before the “second season” begins. “We’re going to keep playing till somebody tells us not too,” Hector said.