“We’re not even supposed to be here. No one thought we’d get this far – so let’s just leave it all out on the field today!”
That’s what Paradise coach Scott Broussard told his team on Saturday when the Panthers took the field against the heavily-favored Melissa Cardinals in the area round of the Class 2A playoffs at Denton High School.
The Cardinals are the district champions and reigning area champs and may have been overlooking the Panthers, who took the series opener on Friday night 11-9.
Wet weather caused that game to be relocated to Krum, and the adverse conditions caused both teams to play below expectations. The squads combined for 13 errors.
“The first game was ugly, but we made the plays that we needed to win,” Broussard said.
The Panthers scored five runs in the third inning to take a 5-3 lead. The Panthers added a run in the fourth and five in the sixth.
Connor Berry drove in two with a single in the sixth. Jarret Holt also plated two with a single in the inning.
The Panthers’ win put Melissa in a must-win situation early Saturday afternoon.
The teams took the field twice on Saturday, with Melissa taking the early match-up with a big, 8-1 win.
“We were thin on pitching and had to conserve some of our pitching in game two,” Broussard said.
In the second game though, it came down to the wire. Paradise had a chance to win late but came up just short in the bottom of the seventh as the Cardinals went on to take the game 3-2 and with it, the series.
Melissa led early in the first game Saturday, going ahead by two in the opening inning. Wes McQueen drove in two runs with a single to help Melissa pad its lead by five at the end of the second inning.
The Cardinals added two more runs in the fourth inning to force a third game.
After scoring a combined 17 runs in the first two games of the series, the Melissa bats suddenly became cold, setting up a dramatic finish to the deciding game.
The Panthers got on the board first, when Tanner Valentine scored in the bottom of the third inning.
Melissa answered in the fourth, when McQueen tied the game by scoring on a passed ball. The Cardinals scored twice in the fifth to go up 3-1, but Paradise closed the gap to one with a run in the sixth inning.
Andrew Sims started off the inning with a stand-up double and then came in to score when Dillon Meadows hit an RBI-single.
The Panthers came to bat in the bottom of the seventh, needing one run to extend the game and two to get the win. Paradise had two runners in scoring position when Holt hit a fly ball to left field that was fielded. Season over.
“Our kids played as good as they could have,” Broussard said. “Melissa made the key plays that they needed to.”
The Cardinals now advance to the regional quarterfinals to face Brock, who eliminated Melissa from the playoffs a year ago.
The loss ends Paradise’s season at 20-11. The series closed the career of seniors Berry, Sims, Logan Bailey and Kale Johnson.
“We had our backs to the wall a lot,” Broussard said. “They competed until the last out out the season. They never quit.”