The Midlothian Panthers boys baseball team opened their 2014 playoff run Thursday night in a best-of-three series against the Killeen Harker Height’s Knights at the Waco ISD sports complex.
The third game of the series wouldn’t be necessary at Midlothian cruised to a pair of victories.
In game one, Midlothian got off to a hot start and cruised to a 12-1 “mercy rule” victory.
In game two, the Panthers once again cruised to an 8-1 victory to seal the sweep.
In game one, Dylan Sweeney ignited the offense in the second by being on the receiving end of a wild throw from Harker Heights’ pitcher Caleb Dean.
Ethan Hallmark followed that up with a single to left. With two on, senior Ethan Davis singled, bringing home Sweeney and moving Hallmark to third. Designated hitter Tylor Frailey then singled with the same result, scoring Hallmark and making it 2-0 Midlothian after the first inning.
Panther starter Ryan Minnix pitched strong, retiring the first nine batters he faced, including four strikeouts and four popups.
Leftfielder Matt Heck led off the bottom of the third for Midlothian with a walk on four straight balls from Dean. He threw four more balls to Matt Horn, pushing Heck to second.
With runners at first and second, Dylan Sweeney executed the shortest bunt of his career -- a six-inch dribbler that died just over the plate. As Sweeney dashed for first, Harker Heights catcher Landon Persick picked up and threw what should have been a routine ball to first baseman Wilson Owens. As the ball traveled to first, it went high and flew over Owens into right field.
The Midlothian crowd erupted as the third base coach Ray Hydes waved the two Matt’s home. Sweeney was able to turn his short bunt into a double.
Hallmark followed with a double of his own scoring Sweeney, making the score 5-0.
Two batters later, Frailey batted in two, taking a 7-0 lead to the top of the fourth.
Harker Heights got on the board in the fourth thanks to a sacrifice fly. In the bottom half, Heck scored from third on a wild pitch from Knight’s reliever Shepherd Mayo to make it 8-1 after four innings.
The Knights had no answer in the top of the fifth, finishing with two strikeouts and a fly to center. Midlothian’s Ethan Davis led off the bottom of the fifth with a double and would eventually score, making it 9-1.
After three straight put-outs by Midlothian’s defense in the top of the sixth, Sweeney homered deep to left on a 3-1 count to start the bottom for the Panthers. Ethan Hallmark followed with his fourth hit of the night, a hard-lined single to right. Next, just waiting for the perfect moment, Blake Barr got his first hit of the night -- a walk-off bomb to left, ending the game, 12-1.
Midlothian was able to get 13 hits off three Knight’s pitchers while Panther starter Ryan Minnix went the distance, only giving up two hits and one run.
In game two Friday night, Midlothian scored three runs in the sixth on RBI doubles by Blake Barr and Ethan Davis, and an RBI single by Cole Roberts.
Heck racked up three RBIs on two hits for the Panthers. He singled in the first inning and homered in the fifth inning.
Jimmy Fouse looked sharp on the hill. Harker Heights managed just four hits off of Fouse, who allowed no earned runs, walked one and struck out one during his five innings of work.
The lead stayed with the Panthers after the first, when they scored one run on an RBI single by Heck.
Midlothian brought home two runs in the fifth inning, and matched that run total in the seventh. In the fifth, the Panthers scored on a two-run home run Heck, plating Blake Laney.
The win improves the Panthers’ record to 27-4, setting a new school record for wins in a season.
Midlothian can add to that total in round two of the playoffs when it faces either Lewisville Hebron in (21-13) the second round of the playoffs.
Game one will be at 7 p.m. Thursday at Hebron. Game two will be at 7 p.m. Friday in Midlothian. If a third game is necessary, it will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at Dallas Jesuit High School.