WEATHERFORD — The Bells Panthers outlasted the Valley Mills Eagles with 15 runs over the final three innings to claim the deciding Game 3, 18-10, of a Class 2A Region II semifinal series at Weatherford Junior College on Saturday night.
Bells (28-6) will face defending state champion Muenster in the region final this week. It is the first trip to the region final in program history.
Valley Mills (24-8) won Game 2 earlier in the day, 12-2 in six innings, and led 7-4 after four innings but couldn’t hang on.
The Panthers tacked on three runs in the seventh when Stephen Hinds was hit with the bases loaded to force in a run, Trystan Mallory scored on a passed ball and Kason Huschke added a sac fly.
Bells took the lead for good with a five-run sixth inning. Matthew Conner opened with a double and Tyler Hawthorne followed with a single to put runners at the corners. Mallory drove in a run on a groundout and then with two outs the Panthers poured it on.
Hinds, Huschke and Hunter Hawthorne all walked to force in a run and then an error plated two runs and Bells was up 13-10. Eli Strickland singled to bring home a pair and the Panthers had a cushion needing to get six more outs.
Valley Mills had tied the game at 10 in the bottom of the fifth. The Eagles loaded the bases with one out on a pair of walks and a single before Dezmond Linares had a sacrifice fly. The final two runs of the inning came on errors.
Down by three runs in the fifth, the Panthers turned it around and took a 10-7 lead. Hunter Hawthorne and Chance Morse opened the inning with doubles to score a run and the bases were loaded when Tyler Hawthorne drove in another with a groundout.
An error allowed bells to tie the game at seven and with two outs, Hinds had a two-run single. Huschke worked a walk before Hunter Hawthorne followed with an RBI single.
The Eagles scored five runs in the bottom of the third to take the lead. A single and a sacrifice led to an RBI single by Jace Navarro and two batters later Cooper Buckemper had an RBI single to tie the game at four.
Valley Mills went in front on an error and a groundout plated another run. An error got the Eagles their final scoring of the frame.
Tyler Hawthorne gave the Panthers a 4-2 advantage in the top of the third when he singled home Eli Strickland, who was hit by a pitch with one out and moved up on a groundout.
In the bottom of the second, Valley Mills cut the lead to 3-2 with a two-out RBI single by Tyler Philipp.
Bells opened the game by taking a 3-0 lead. Stephen Hinds started with a walk, stole second with one out and scored on Hunter Hawthorne’s double. The Panthers loaded the bases on a walk by Morse and Strickland getting hit by a pitch.
Tyler Hawthorne had an RBI single and Mallory followed with a hit that drove in a run.
Valley Mills forced the deciding game with a 12-2 victory in five innings earlier in the day. Chase Keeton was 3-for-4 with two doubles and scored three times, Navarro was 3-for-4, drove in a run and scored twice and Cory McNair was 2-for-4, drove in two runs and scored twice for the Eagles, who scored five runs apiece in the fourth and fifth innings to enact the run-rule.
Bells had just three hits — by Hinds, Hunter Hawthorne and Mallory — while Huschke walked twice and Tyler Hawthorne and Morse walked. Morse and Mallory drove in runs.
Valley Mills took a 2-0 lead after three innings before the Panthers cut the deficit in half in the top of the fourth. Morse reached on a dropped third strike, Strickland was hit by a pitch with two outs, Tyler Hawthorne walked to load the bases and Mallory singled to drive in a run but Strickland was out at the plate trying to score as well.
Bells was down 7-1 after the fourth when the Panthers loaded the bases with no outs when Hinds was hit by a pitch, Huschke walked and Hunter Hawthorne singled. Morse walked to force in a run but a strikeout and double play kept the Valley Mills lead at five and the Eagles quickly doubled that to end the game after five innings.