SPORTS HEADLINES

Different day; Two days after 11-1 loss, Paradise rallies to win series

By Richard Greene | Published Wednesday, May 9, 2012

PULLING DOUBLE DUTY - Paradise senior pitcher Connor Berry picked up a pair of wins Saturday against Krum. He held the Bobcats to one run in 10 innings. Messenger photo by Mack Thweatt

In the final two innings Thursday, the Krum Bobcats battered the Paradise pitching staff for 11 runs on seven hits to take game one of the Class 2A Region II bi-district series.

Saturday, Paradise’s Connor Berry took all the juice out of the Bobcats’ offense.

The senior right-hander mixed up pitches and arm angles to keep Krum hitters guessing over 10 innings of two starts.

Berry allowed only one hit in four innings of game three before Dillon Meadows worked a final scoreless three frames in a series-clinching, 4-0 shutout in game three.

That gem followed a 15-1 Paradise win in game two.

“The other day their bats were real hot,” Berry said. “Today we showed up, and we validated. We hit the ball really well at the plate, and our pitching was phenomenal with Logan Dillon and me.

“We’re going to have to keep that up to continue in the playoffs.”

Paradise, the third-place team from District 10-2A, advances to the area round for the third straight season. After beating Krum for the second time in three seasons in the playoffs, the Panthers now will play Melissa in an area-round series that begins Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Denton’s Bronco Field.

Berry, who pitched two-thirds of an inning Thursday’s 11-1 loss and allowed two runs on two hits with two walks, made sure Saturday would be different.

Berry allowed one run on five hits in 10 innings, starting games two and three Saturday. Krum had only one extra-base hit off him and went 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position against him.

“I worked my curveball and changeup, and I feel my velocity has been picking up this whole year,” Berry said. “Today I was throwing as hard as I ever have. I was mixing a bunch of off-speed pitches, and they couldn’t get their timing down.”

In game two, Berry held Krum to four hits and a run in six innings. He struck out six, walked two and hit two batters.

His lone jam in the game came in the sixth inning with the bases loaded and no one out. Berry got a strikeout and a flyout to center field before Krum finally scored on a passed ball to make it 8-1. He then struck out Trey Johnson to end the inning.

The Paradise offense broke game two open in the top of the seventh with seven runs on four hits and five walks. The Panthers tagged Krum pitching for 15 runs on 11 hits. Senior center fielder Andrew Sims finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs.

Bailey knocked in four runs, also going 2-for-4.

“Thursday was not too good, but we never gave up,” said Bailey, whose two-run double in the second put Paradise up for good. “We knew Connor would come through, and our bats caught on fire.”

After his team scored seven runs in the top of the seventh to stretch the lead to 14 runs, Bailey came on to get the final three outs of game two.

Berry threw 92 pitches to get through his six innings of game one. With four innings of availability left, Broussard put the ball back in Berry’s hands to start game three – a decision that Berry didn’t shy away from.

“I always want the ball,” he said. “As a senior, you’ve got to step up and be a leader.”

Berry needed only four pitches to get through the top of the first in game three and followed up with three more scoreless innings to finish off his day. He struck out one, walked two and hit two batters in game three.

“Berry was outstanding,” Broussard said. “He did a good job of working ahead in the count and kept his pitch count low so he could go the second game.

“He’s stepped up all year long. With the game on the line, I’m a firm believer in having the ball in the hands of a senior like that.”

In game three, Paradise freshman catcher Skylar Black provided all the runs Berry and the Panthers needed with his third-inning RBI-single to center to score Jarrett Holt.

The Panthers added a run in the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Holt to score Austin Hogan, who led off the inning with a double.

Hogan’s RBI-double in the sixth and Tanner Valentine’s single made it 4-0.

The freshman Meadows, who took the loss in game one, worked around an infield single and walk in the seventh. After a groundball back to the mound, he tossed the ball to Berry at first for the final out, completing the Paradise series win.

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