PROSPER — For the third time in these playoffs, the Yellow Jackets find themselves trailing in the series. Denison found a way to sweep its previous two double-headers to survive and advance.
While this matchup against Colleyville Heritage will stretch out over a couple of days, the Jackets will hope the third time remains a charm after losing against the Panthers, 5-2, in Game 1 of a Class 5A Region I quarterfinal series.
Denison (21-14) will try to extend the series at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Prosper while Colleyville Heritage (30-6) is out to sweep and advance to the region semis. A deciding third game, if needed, would be at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Prosper.
“Same deal,” Denison head coach Charles Bollinger said. “Win the game and then go win the series.”
Mason Greer and Chandler Freeman each drove in a pair of runs for the Panthers and Matt Parker held the Jackets to four hits – two by Seth Thomas – and a hit by pitch while working around a pair of errors.
Denison had its chances against the left-hander in the middle innings but were unable to push a second run across until the seventh.
Thomas reached on an error in right to open the third and stole second but was stranded there.
In the fourth, Dalton Souther was safe on an error at third, Carson Auten sacrificed him to second but a pair of groundouts ended the inning.
The Jackets led off the fifth with another runner – Cayden Earnhart singled to center – but after another sacrifice Parker buckled down again to keep Denison off the board.
“In a clutch situation, you’ve gotta come through,” Bollinger said. “Sacrifice a guy over and two guys behind him have an opportunity.”
After the Panthers carried a four-run advantage into the seventh, Earnhart had a one-out double to left-center and Thomas had a two-out RBI single before Parker closed out the victory.
Colleyville Heritage tacked on a pair of what turned out to be big insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth when Freeman hit a two-run homer to left with one out.
The Panthers took a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the third. Cole Brown worked a leadoff walk, stole second with one out and went to third on a passed ball. Bobby Witt Jr. walked and then Greer, son of the former Texas Ranger outfielder, had an RBI double to straightaway center.
Jacob Guerrero got Witt Jr. home with a grounder to short.
Zander Ramey was able to hold the deficit to two runs in the fourth when Jakob Berger, who doubled to open the frame and moved over on a groundout, was picked off third.
In the fifth, Garrett Maxwell relieved Ramey after Witt Jr. walked with one out. He induced a pair of infield pop-outs to keep it 3-1.
Colleyville Heritage tied the game at one in the first. Witt Jr. poked a two-out single the other way to right and then scored on Greer’s long double to right center.
Denison took the lead two batters into the game. Thomas singled to left with a high hop off the turf and forced a throw to second base that was high and went into foul territory, allowing him to go to third.
Wilson Kirkbride then hit a squibber just past the pitcher’s mound and Greer charged in from second base and tried for the play at the plate. Even though Thomas had to hesitate for the ball to get past Parker, he slid in ahead of the tag for the early advantage.
The Jackets missed a chance to add on when Austin Emery was hit by a pitch with one out to put another runner on base before Parker got a flyout and groundout to end the inning.
“Should have jumped on them,” Bollinger said. “Come out and play. Make a clutch play.”