WHITNEY, Texas — A home run, loss and season low helped the Maypearl beat state-ranked Groesbeck 6-1 in game one of Thursday's regional quarterfinal playoff at Whitney High School Wildcat Field.
The (24-7) Goats had won back-to-back series against Leon and Lexington High Schools, claimed the District 19-3A championship and won 16 of their last 20 games. Groesbeck High School also earned a No. 5 rating among schools in the UIL 3A baseball classification from TXHighSchoolBaseball.com in a recent May 1 poll.
The Goats had also been held to one run — a season low — only twice against Palmer High School on March 2 and West High School on April 14.
Brian Bilbrey, Maypearl's head baseball coach said focusing on their dugout and not the one 90 feet away, as well as trust during his starter's mid-game struggles, keyed the win.
"It's happened before. It's not that he was tired in the middle innings, it was that we needed to get [Lonnie's] release point back to where it should be," he said. "It's a tough team and we're playing in a place that has a lot of external distractions. We let him know that we've got his back. That's how we've approached the entire season — trying to look at ourselves more than the other team. We know we need to play great defense, have great at-bats and execute our game plan. If we do that, we give ourself a chance, regardless of the team we're playing."
Maypearl (20-8) entered the game on a four-game win streak but unranked in Texas despite beating state-ranked No. 5 Grandview High School in District 17-3A play and finishing the regular season as the No. 2 seed.
It also marked the first Maypearl regional quarterfinal game played since Brandon Hyles and the Panthers lost a two-game series to Sunnyvale High School in 2010.
One of the sparks came from the left arm of junior Lonnie Brooks, who surrendered one run on three hits and struck out four batters with 110 pitches. He retired his eight of his first 10 batters and held Groesbeck scoreless through six innings, allowing only a Mitchell Waller's double in the third inning, Brayden Bradley's leadoff single in the fourth and Grant Johnson's single in the seventh.
Another came from a Kenneth "Bubba" McGinn home run shot.
"Honestly, I thought I just hit a far pop-up to the fence but when I started to slow down going into first [base], I saw it go over and put my finger in the sky," McGinn said.
With one out and senior Tanir Horton on second after driving a third pitch fastball through the heart of the goat defense for a standup double, McGinn sent the second of his at-bat over the centerfield fence.
Ellis Boyer's momentary location miss turned into a career first for the Panther junior.
"It was my first home run ever," McGinn continued. "It feels awesome. I go out there and play. I just love that my first home came when we needed it."
The two-run bomb turned a 4-0 Goat deficit into an insurmountable Panther six-run lead going into the late innings.
His hit was also one of logged 13 by the Panthers, including three by hits leader Dakota Davis two each by Brooks, Horton, Luis Dermas and Zach Doyle. Bilbrey said his team's real test might come on Friday.
Chandler Boyd could be Groesbeck's best chance to try to even the series at one game apiece. He is 4-1 over his last five starts against Bruceville-Eddy, Clifton, Lexington, McGregor and West High Schools and has tossed 28 strikeouts and allowed 15 runs during that stretch.
His last loss was an 8-7 decision against the TXHighSchoolBaseball.com's No. 24 Clifton Cubs on March 24.
"They get the bus ride home to enjoy the win because tomorrow, we have to go back to work," Bilbrey said. "If things work themselves out and we're fortunate enough to work our way through it, we can reflect on the series. That's a state-ranked team that's going to pull their ace. We're expecting their best punch tomorrow and we're going with Dakota and we're doing the same."
The Panthers will play Groesbeck in game two at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Whitney High School.
A Maypearl win would put the Panthers on a collision course with the winner of the Kirbyville-Pollok Central High School regional quarterfinal round matchup. Pollok Central's Bulldogs are the District 22 No. 3 seed and Kirbyville's Wildcats are the District 23 undefeated champion.
A loss would force game three, scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at Whitney High School.
Marcus S. Marion, @MarcusMarionWNI