ARGYLE — Decatur rallied for two runs in the fifth inning for its first lead of the game then hung on to win, 4-3, over the Melissa Cardinals Saturday, wrapping up this best-of-three series for a Class 4A Region II Area title.
The Cards led, 3-2, after five-and-half innings on the strength of an Adam Davis line-drive RBI single in the third inning. Davis had also kept Decatur at bay from the mound, mixing his fastball and off-speed pitches to great effect.
But, once ahead, the Eagles soon called on their hard- throwing ace, Tarleton State commit Bryce Elder, to close it out — and that he did, cruising through the last four outs with 15 pitches.
“We had them exactly where we wanted them,” Melissa head coach Jason Russell said. “We just didn’t get a couple of safety squeezes down. That was pretty much the difference in the game. We knew once they got the lead that they would bring Elder in. That’s exactly what happened. And they got him late, so that’s exactly what they wanted.”
With the series victory, Decatur advances to face the Aubrey-Sanger winner in the regional quarterfinals next week.
Melissa loaded the bases in the top of the first with two walks and a hit batsman. Dalton Vestal then came home on a wild pitch, followed by Andrew Cole’s sacrifice fly to left that scored Brady Morrison from third and the Cards led, 2-0.
The Eagles answered with two in second frame, kicked off by Hicks’ lead-off triple to center. Then, after a walk and a hit batter, Eddie Fernandez’ single sent Jaxon Terrell home with Decatur’s first run. With the bases still loaded, another walk sent the Eagles’ tying run across the plate.
In the decisive bottom of the fifth inning, trailing, 3-2, Decatur loaded the bases on two singles and walk. Hicks then walked on four pitches, bringing home the tying run. The eventual game-winning run came on a Terrell fly ball to left, which allowed Trey Penny to tag up and score.
Davis, a junior, went 5.2 innings, allowing six hits and five walks with five strikeouts.
“I couldn’t ask for any more out of him,” Russell said. “He hadn’t had to throw a lot of innings this year. He hadn’t had to stretch out very much in this kind of situation. But he’s got really good stuff and a really bright future.”
Decatur’s Hicks went 5.2 innings as well, allowing one hit and six walks, with three strikeouts.
In Thursday’s Game 1, Elder dominated the Cards in a 10-0, five-inning rout. Melissa came back in Game 2 with Andrew Cole on the mound and took a 4-2 win. Cole scattered four hits and allowed one run in six innings of work.
The Cards carried a 2-1 lead into the sixth inning when Sean Turnage sent a sharp, two-run single up the middle to give Melissa a 4-1 cushion. Reliever Tate Whittington came on to start the seventh and worked out of tense bases-loaded jams for the victory. Davis’ two-run single in the first inning gave Melissa an early lead.
“I’m really proud of our guys for competing,” Russell said, “battling back from a 10-0 run-rule in Game 1, finding a way to make it work in Game 2 and then getting out there right in the thick of it in an exciting game.”