Two late-inning heartbreakers ended the Midlothian Panthers dream season on the diamond Friday.
Corsicana stole game one of the 5A Region II championship Friday at Horner Park on the campus of Dallas Baptist University, 2-1. The Tigers then held off the Panthers in game two later that afternoon and won in extra innings, 7-4.
Corsicana is coached by Heath Autrey, who previously served as the skipper at Red Oak and is a 1992 Waxahachie graduate.
Following the game two loss, Midlothian head baseball coach Ray Hydes said he was proud of his team and their relentless fight.
"You know, you work hard to get here and, it's just one of those days when the ball didn't bounce our way," Hydes said. "We had a couple of booboos that cost us, and when we hit some balls, we hit them right at them. We bounced back and got back into the game but, it's just one of those things where it just didn't happen for us."
Game one saw Midlothian starting pitcher Caden Hawkins and Corsicana lefty Micah Burke lock into quite the pitching battle.
Ryan McCaskill drove in a run to put the Panthers on top 1-0 in the top of the first inning. The two pitchers then mowed down opposing hitters from the ensuing four innings.
The Panthers even headed to the bottom of the sixth inning still clinging to their one-run lead.
"Their kid pitched well. We were five outs away and missed a pop-up and, after we did that, we kind of just fell apart," Hydes said, referring to a pop-up that fell between three Panthers just beyond the infield cut behind first base. "We had a couple of little bloops but we didn't score enough runs and you have got to score runs."
Hydes noted it is always tough for a pitcher to have to grind to protect a one-run lead for an entire ball game.
Hawkins eventually worked into a bases-loaded jam following a pair of singles and a walk. A sacrifice fly and a hit-by-pitch put the Tigers up 2-1, as the game headed to the top of the seventh inning.
The Panthers put two runners on base but could not get either home, falling in game one of the 5A Region II championship, 2-1.
Corsicana began game two by plating one run in the top of the second inning, two in the third and one more in the fourth for a 4-0 lead. The advantage held into the bottom of the sixth inning.
Anthony Ferrante singled with one out in the bottom of the sixth and Hunter Harrington reached a few pitches later via a walk.
Lance Rains then singled home the first Midlothian run of the game and Hunter Rainwater followed with a single into left field to cut the Corsicana lead in half, 4-2.
The Tigers then went down in order in the top of the seventh inning and set the stage for yet another improbable Midlothian comeback.
Nathan Humphreys led off the bottom of the seventh inning by reaching on an error and promptly scored on a Ryan McCaskill triple that hit the bottom of the right-field fence at Horner Park.
Following a pitching change, Ferrante was then intentionally walked and Harrington was plunked to load the bases full of Panthers with one out.
A fly out to center field then resulted in the Panthers courtesy runner being doubled off the base paths.
Two walks, two singles, a double and sacrifice fly plated three Corsicana runs in the top of the eighth inning for a 7-4 lead.
The advantage held and the Tigers celebrated their soon-to-come trip to Dell Diamond in Round Rock for the 5A state baseball tournament.
"These guys had a heck of a year," said Hydes of the Panthers. "I am so proud of these guys and all that they have accomplished. Our seniors, once again, their leadership should be credited for how far we've gone. I've been very blessed to be a part of this and these kids mean everything in the world to me."
Fred Phipps/Daily Light contributed to this report.