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North Lamar Panthers: Regional Finalists

Jacob Cowling celebrating after the last out of their series with Melissa.
Jacob Cowling celebrating after the last out of their series with Melissa.

On Friday night, the North Lamar Panthers became the first team in 3A baseball to advance to the Regional Finals next weekend. North Lamar completed a two-game sweep over the Melissa Cardinals in McKinney to move on in the playoffs. With the win, North Lamar improved to 8-1 in the postseason with three of the series finishing in two-game sweeps. The Panthers have outscored their opponents 45-20 in the playoffs and will face Argyle in the next round.

Game 1: North Lamar 6 Melissa 3

Game 1 was played at PJC’s HUB Hollis field on Thursday night. The visiting Cardinals had just come off a three-game series win over Ferris and were looking to jump on Daniel Gibbons and the Panthers. Melissa didn’t waste any time either as they put a run on the board in the first inning without registering a hit. The leadoff hitter, Cade Cruce, reached on an error and then advanced to second. A couple of sacrifices later and Melissa was up 1-0.

North Lamar, who came into this series having scored in the first inning of six of their seven playoff games, continued the streak on Thursday. Braydon Steed and Gibbons walked to start the game. Both runners were advanced 90 feet. Steed was able to score when a pick off attempt at second went wrong.

The Panthers would score two more in the second inning to take a 3-1 lead. After ColtonWise and Steed got on base, Gibbons hit a double to drive in both runners. Melissa quickly answered, however, as they drove in two runs in the third to tie the game. Three walks in the inning and an error allowed the runners to score. The good thing for North Lamar, though, is that’s all the runs Melissa would manage.

The score would remain tied at three until the fourth inning. North Lamar would take advantage of a couple Melissa miscues. Trey Scudder hit a ball to the gap in left-center. The left fielder appeared to have the ball in what would have been a nice running catch but he dropped the ball. Scudder made it to second on the play and advanced to third on an error during the next at bat. Wise walked and Chad Box laid down a perfect suicide squeeze bunt in which Scudder scored and Wise moved to second. Steed doubled to left field and Wise scored to make the score 5-3.

Brandon Dusenberry looking at a pitch against Melissa on Friday.
Brandon Dusenberry looking at a pitch against Melissa on Friday.

North Lamar would add one more in the sixth inning. After loading the bases, Aaron Edwards hit a sharp single to center that scored Box. North Lamar escaped with a win despite giving up seven walks and committing four errors as well. Gibbons pitched six innings and only gave up one hit. Gibbons did have 10 strikeouts in the win. The three runs given up were all unearned. Ty Jones came in and pitched the seventh inning for the Panthers. He allowed one hit, struck out one and walked one.

Game 2: North Lamar 5 Melissa 3 (9 innings)

For the first time since game two against Emory/Rains, the Panthers failed to score in the first inning. The game remained scoreless through the first three innings. North Lamar did strike first, though as they put up two runs in the top of the fourth inning. Aaron Edwards doubled and Hunter Reeves singled. Reeves attempted a steal of second and the catcher’s throw went into center field. Edwards was able to score from third on the play. A few plays later, Kyle Dunmon scored on a Jacob Cowling double.

In the sixth inning, Trey Scudder was hit by a pitch. He would eventually come around to score after a single, passed ball and another single by Chad Box. In the bottom of the six, Melissa found a way to tie the game. Back-to-back singles to start the inning put runners on first and second. After Brandon Dusenberry struck out the next batter, another single scored the first run of the game for Melissa. A ground out and another single scored run number two.

With the tying run at third, Dusenberry threw to first for a pickoff. The runner was caught off the base and started to run towards second. With the player in the rundown, the player at third broke for home. He was able to score before the tag was applied during the rundown. The game was tied at three after six.

Perhaps the play of the game, though, wasn’t in that inning but in the seventh. In the bottom of the seventh, with the game tied at three, Melissa was able to load the bases with no outs. Instead of going to Ty Jones, Coach Scott Igleheart stayed with Dusenberry. Dusenberry was able to get a strikeout and then a ground out to end the inning.

Ty Jones closing out the series on the mound for North Lamar.
Ty Jones closing out the series on the mound for North Lamar.

After a scoreless eighth inning, North Lamar took advantage of two errors in the inning by the Cardinals to score two runs. The first coming from Box, who got on base thanks to a single to start the inning. An error on the third baseman on a sacrifice bunt attempt allowed him to advance to second and Steed to get on base.

An error would allow Box to score to put North Lamar up 4-3. Steed would score later in the inning on a Reeves single. Jones would come in and finish the game on the mound for the Panthers. Dusenberry pitched eight innings and gave up three runs, two of which were earned. He allowed six hits, had 10 strikeouts and walked two batters.

North Lamar will face Argyle next weekend. Times and locations have yet to be determined for the series.

By Greg Higgins, eParisExtra