One minute, Austin Saye is sitting on the bench, biding his time. The next, he’s being mobbed by teammates in celebration of his heroics.
Saye, a junior varsity call-up for the Midlothian baseball team, came on in relief of teammate Hunter Hipsman. Hipsman exited due to illness and proceeded to hit an inside-the-park home run (or something like it) to spark a sixth inning comeback in the Panthers’ 8-6 win over Mansfield Summit in the Robert Dulin Memorial Tournament championship.
“It was exhausting but exciting because I’ve never done one of those before. It was crazy just being the first time to ever do that for me,” Saye said.
Saye’s blast to start the sixth inning could have been ruled as one of many things – a double and two base error, a triple and one base error, an inside-the-park home run or just a four-base error. Whatever you want to label it, there was no doubt it was the start of something.
Down 5-3 going into the inning, Saye got the rally started in his second at-bat of the game. That cut the lead in half, much to the chagrin of coach Ray Hydes.
“Saye got that big double and obviously it ended up being whatever you want to call it – a double, inside-the-park home run. He got lucky, he ran through the stop sign there,” Hydes said with a laugh.
That was followed by a double from Conner Roberts and a sac bunt by Bryant Engle. Pinch hitter Blake Lunday put two aboard with a walk, bringing the top of the order back around.
Leadoff hitter Alec Humphreys gave Midlothian its first lead of the day on a two-run double. Cody Cain put runners at the corners with his third single of the day while Daniel Rushing added an insurance run when he put a ball in play that resulted in an error. During Justin Shealy’s at-bat the fifth run of the inning came home on a wild pitch. While the rally ended there, it was all the momentum the team needed.
“We just kind of snowballed. We got some big hits and we moved the ball with runners at third base and we scored those runs. Those are good things,” Hydes said. “That’s what we’re trying to teach the kids, you don’t have to hit the ball out of the ball park, just move the ball and give your guys a chance to score some runs.”
After a solid start by junior pitcher Grant Freels, the Panthers turned to J.D. Pruitt for the final three innings of work. Pruitt allowed a double to start the seventh but settled down to retire the next two batters. Summit plated a run on a fielding error and had the tying run on first thanks to a walk but Pruitt closed the game by getting the Jaguars’ No. 9 hitter, who was previously 3-for-3, to fly out to left.
The 4-1 showing in Waxahachie was a far cry from the 1-2-1 effort the Panthers had last weekend in Waco. In each of the five games, Midlothian put up seven or more hits, including four games of 10-plus hits. It was also the first early season tournament the program has won in more than a decade. Cain, Rushing and Blaine Blackburn earned all-tournament honors for their efforts.
All those things were positives to build off of with the district season looming.
“It was amazing. After all the stuff that happened this week, it’s great to come out, come together as a team and finally start winning and producing,” Cain said. “We’ve got a tough district so we’ve got to keep getting better every week.”
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