MELISSA – After back-to-back district losses, Melissa got back to winning on Thursday with a 10-0 takedown of Gainesville at the Melissa Sports Facility. The victory got the Cardinals to 6-3 in district play and back into first place, tied with Sanger and Aubrey with one game left.

Gainesville dropped to 0-9.

With five big runs in the fifth inning, Melissa invoked the 10-run rule, quickly ending the contest. Starter Hayden Schafer went the distance for the Cards, striking out seven and scattering four hits, while Melissa’s offense put up 10 hits.

Jayton Cepica led the Cards with a 3-for-3 turn at the plate while Tyler Womack, Coy DeFury, Sean Turnage and Schafer posted two hits apiece. Turnage rolled to a team-high 4 RBI and DeFury slapped an RBI-double.

Melissa head coach Jason Russell said he was looking for his team to respond after the two setbacks.

“We went through a little bit of a trying time,” Russell said. “We needed to go through some soul-searching. And I think we did that. I challenged these guys. I just asked them to play hard. We’re at our best when we’re playing really hard. We’re pitching well, we’re playing great defense - you haven’t seen us do that in a little bit. It was refreshing to see us come back and be who we are.”

Safer said it felt good.

“I felt like I didn’t have all my best stuff tonight, but I found a way to compete and get past it and get it done,” he said. “Lots of zeroes on the board. … Honestly, when we play amazing defense, we’re unbeatable, I believe. When we’re flawless in the field, I think we have a shot to win a state championship.”

Cepica went 2-for-three at Aubrey just days before the game.

“I just go up to the plate and feel real confident in myself and my teammates around me,” said Cepica. “I know they’ll do the job when I get on.” As for getting through this recent rough patch, he said, “We’ve been alright. We’ve been kind of in our heads a lot but once we start to get on the field and relax … that’s when we start coming out as a team and playing our best.”

Melissa third baseman DeFury was asked about the team’s defense of late.

“We’ve been pretty good the past couple of games,” he said. “It just hasn’t been our best hitting games. I think we can do a lot better on hitting. We did really good tonight.”

The Cards popped Gainesville for two runs in the first inning. Trevor Brooks’ one-out infield single got things started and DeFury’s two-bagger to left brought him home. Cepica then singled to right, putting runners at the corners. After a strikeout, Cepica distracted the Leopards into a run-down play between first and second, and DeFury stole home for a 2-0 lead.

Gainesville had something going in the third with a walk and a single to left. But on a grounder to third, DeFury fired to Brooks at the plate who made the tag for Out 2, getting run over in the process. The next batter sent a shot into center field but Grayson Hurst, charging from right to left, flagged it down to end the half-inning.

In Melissa’s third, Turnage’s bases-loaded fly ball to right, misplayed by a Leopards defender, plated three more runs for a 5-0 advantage. That surge started with two outs when Cepica singled to short and Schafer and Sam Crain drew consecutive walks.

In the top of the fifth a loud roar went up as a freakish wind swept the ball park, sending several patrons scrambling from the bleachers – to their cars, the press box – anywhere but their exposed perch. Heavy rain showers were in the vicinity, but no lightning. The tricky winds played havoc with a couple of high foul balls that went uncaught.

DeFury and Cepica led off the Cards’ fifth with back-to-back singles. Schafer followed with another one to center that drove in DeFury. After Gainesville got a pop-out to second base, Turnage’s ground-ball shot to right scored Cepica for a 7-0 lead. Isaiah Segovia’s ground out to second plated Schafer then, with two outs, Dillon Youngblood was hit by a pitch. Up next, Womack swatted an 0-2 pitch for a left-side single that sent Turnage home. Youngblood scored as well on the throw, ending the game.