WACO, Texas — With a handful of swings and steadiness from Luis Dermas and Tanir Horton during Saturday's 7-4 win against Buffalo High School, Maypearl reached the advanced past the bi-district round for the first time in three seasons.
The last time it claimed an UIL 3A baseball area round berth, the Panthers fell to Farmersville High School in three games in 2014. The two years that followed, though, they were swept from the postseason by Brock and Grandview High Schools.
They were also outscored 32-8 in the four games against the Eagles and Zebras. Grit and late-game heroics ensured the losses of the past weren't repeated in the present and felt in the future.
"It's been three years since we've been to this round," said Brian Bilbrey, the head baseball coach at Maypearl High School. "This is the most fun time of the year and a time when any team can win and anything can happen. This is what you play all season for — a chance to move into the next round and hopefully get a shot at a state title."
Horton's RBI double scored the deadlock run and Zach Doyle's two-run scoring single drove in Chase Reeher and Horton — the fifth and sixth and winning runs of the game.
Davis (3-for-4), Horton (2-for-4) and Cole Maxwell (2-for-4) led Maypearl in hits. Chase Reeher (1-for-3) led the Panthers in RBIs with three after he cleared loaded bases with a three-run double in the bottom of the first inning.
For the second game in a row, the Panthers took a seemingly healthy lead only to see the Bison rise, rally and attempt to avoid a sweep. During game No. 1, Buffalo scored six runs in two innings and pushed Maypearl to the brink.
In game No. 2, they scored four.
After scoring its first run of the game via sacrifice by Mathew Jonas and score by Jarrett Fishbeck in the top of the fifth inning, the Bison sheared the Panthers' lead to a mere three runs after a back-to-back RBI double by Chase Thompson and singles by Jarrett and Jacob Fishbeck.
Landon Agapiou, who stepped in for Jarrett at the end if the third inning, held Maypearl to one run on five hits and struck out one batter. Buffalo's two pitchers committed seven errors and allowed 12 total hits and three total walks.
Dermas and Horton, however, outdueled Agapiou and helped seal the area round berth for Maypearl.
"We tried to stretch him out, but Dakota was getting near his pitch count," Bilbrey said. "He got into a little trouble and [Buffalo] got a couple of hits and runs near the end, but Luis stopped them cold and Tanir shut the door 1-2-3. Ballgame. When you have back-end pitchers like that, players that come in the came an give clutch performances, there is a lot you can do to win games in the postseason."
While Dermas allowed no hits on four pitches in the fifth inning, Horton (2-1, 1.33 ERA) earned his second save season after retiring the last three batters of the game with 10 pitches and back-to-back-to-back ground outs.
Davis (7-3, 1.26 ERA) struck out three batters — his 60th, 61st and 62nd of the season — with 86 pitches and allowed four runs on six hits over five innings.
Stifling the back-to-back Bison rallies put Maypearl on a collision course with Clifton High School, the District 19-3A No. 4 seed. The (18-7, 8-5) Cubs swept Rogers High School in the bi-district round after 3-0 and 10-9 victories.
"Clifton is hot right now. They're a No. 4 seed that just knocked off a No. 1," Bilbrey said. "We got to scout them a little during their series and what we found out was they do everything right. They pitch, bat and field well. It's going to be a fun series against a really, really good team."
Rogers earned a No. 15 state-ranking from TXHighSchoolbaseball.com during their 14-0 undefeated run through District 20-3A.
The Panthers will start the three-game series at 6 p.m. Friday at Waco ISD Sports Complex Field. The second game of the series will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at Waco ISD Sports Complex Field 1. If a third game is needed, it will be played 30 minutes after game No. 2.
The winner will face the winner of the Groesbeck and Leon area round series. Leon beat District 17-3A Mildred High School in the bi-district round.
Marcus S. Marion can be reached for story idea submissions or concerns at (469) 517-1456. Follow him on Twitter at @MarcusMarionWNI.