The high school baseball playoffs are fun. So are upsets.
On paper, the Midlothian Panthers should've, could've and would've been written off by most midway through the regular season. They then won five of their final six regular-season games to push Red Oak out of the District 14-5A playoff picture and clinch the final postseason berth.
Forney (21-11-1) had made easy work of its regular season and District 13-5A schedule, finishing the district slate 11-1 and with the outright championship.
It was, after all, just two weeks ago when Midlothian head baseball coach Ray Hydes said his team would have to play with their backs against the wall until the final out of the season.
That sentiment was proved — twice — in one of the more memorable 5A bi-district championships in Midlothian baseball history this past weekend.
The Panthers fell in the opener Thursday 8-4, despite three Midlothian pitchers allowing just one earned run.
The Jackrabbits scored three runs in the bottom of the first, three more in the third, and one run in the fourth and sixth innings on seven hits, five walks and four Midlothian errors.
Caden Hawkins was charged with the loss after he allowed six runs — all unearned — over 2.2 innings. He struck out seven, walked one and allowed three hits.
Caden Copelan (2.1IP, R) and Nick Pollard (1IP, R) closed out the game one loss in the best-of-three 5A Region II bi-district championship series.
Anthony Ferrante drove in all four Midlothian runs with a third-inning grand slam.
Four Midlothian pitchers combined to toss a five-hit shutout in game two of the bi-district championship series.
Jackson Quinn picked up the 1-0 win after he tossed four innings of two-hit baseball, striking out seven and walking five.
Caden Copeland then tossed a pair of no-hit innings and turned the ball over to Colton Spencer after striking out three and walking two, with one of those walks coming in the top of the seventh inning.
Spencer recorded the first two outs of the inning but allowed a pair of Forney base runners on two hits. He gave way to Pollard, who was faced with a bases-loaded, two-out jam.
Seven pitches later and the series was tied following Pollard's strikeout.
Midlothian courtesy runner Austen Thomas scored the Panthers lone run —courtesy of a Forney fielding error — in the bottom of the second inning.
Will Morgan, a former Waxahachie baseball and football standout, struck out 10 Panthers over his six innings of work and walked two. He allowed just one unearned run on two hits.
"I think we played like I expected them to play," Hydes said following the game. "All year long, we have not had a whole lot of offense but have had really, really good pitching. These guys have been in the playoffs for the last three weeks and they have had to win, win and win. They have ponied up and had some guys gut it up. I am so proud of these guys."
Hydes added, "It's about 'want to' right now and our 'want to' is pretty good right now. I'll take it. Every pitch and every out has a purpose and we have to work and stay ahead. It's a battle. That was a good ball club.
"We are in for a war."
Hydes was once again correct — the Panthers were in for their biggest battle of the season Saturday.
A four-run top of the sixth inning had the Forney Jackrabbits in the driver's seat Saturday afternoon in their bi-district finale against Midlothian.
But, by that point, the Panthers were quite used to the pressure of having a season on the line.
The Panthers eventually scratched one run in the bottom of the seventh inning to tie the game at five-all and Hunter Harrington then delivered.
Harrington shot a single back through the infield to score the winning run in the 6-5 walk-off to clinch the bi-district championship series.
Forney outhit Midlothian 11-6 in the contest.
Humphreys started the game for the Panthers on the bump and tossed 5.1 innings of eight-hit and four-run baseball.
He also tripled and scored one run at the plate.
Humphreys turned the ball over to Hawkins in the top of the sixth inning. Hawkins allowed one earned run on three hits and recorded just one out before giving way to Josh Tankersley.
Tankersley earned the win by recording the final four outs without allowing a Forney base runner.
Josh Oliver and Ryan McCaskill both drove in a pair of runs for the Panthers, while Harrington and Tankersley drove home the other two.
McCaskill finished the ball game 3-for-4 at the dish with one double and one run scored.
The Panthers advanced to the 5A Region II area championship against the Royse City Bulldogs with the win.
Game one is slated for 7:30 p.m Friday at Royse City. Game two is planned for 11 a.m. Saturday at Ronnie Clanton Field in Midlothian, with game three, if necessary, to be played 30 minutes following the conclusion of game two.
The Panthers improved to 20-11 on the season with the series win against Forney over the weekend.
Midlothian bowed out the 2018 playoffs following a loss to Joshua in the 5A Region II quarterfinals. That squad ended the season with a 22-11 record.
Fred Phipps/Daily Light contributed to this report.