Never Say Die: North Hopkins wins regional quarterfinal series in last-at-bat

By JOSEPH ELERSON | News-Telegram Sports Writer

May 21, 2007 - PARIS - The North Hopkins Panthers are living by the saying, "Never Say Die" after winning their regional quarterfinal series over the Maud Cardinals two games to one on Saturday afternoon.

The Cardinals dominated Game 2 with a 9-2 win and then in the deciding game, North Hopkins came from behind in the bottom of the sixth inning for a 4-2 victory.

North Hopkins won Game 1, 7-3, earlier in the week.

"We have done this all year. We did not come ready to play in the first game of the day, but when it got to the point late in the game, Dustin (Clements) did a good job for us," said NHHS head coach Brian Bymaster. "I knew that I had (Bradley) Ball in Game 3 and they did not have anything left in terms of pitching. You saw in Game 2 that it was a run of bad luck and that is baseball. We were able to get guys on base and then we couldn't do anything."

The Panthers will advance to the Class A, Region III semifinals to face the Lovelady Lions in a best-of-three series later this week. Game 1 is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, with Game 2 of the series a 5 p.m. Friday, and Game 3 to follow if necessary. All games will be played at Bullard's Brook Hill High School.

"I am about to take the seniors to New Braunfels for their senior trip and let them enjoy the last few weeks of school," Bymaster said. "The Lovelady coach is wanting a three-game series and I know that his pitching is like ours and this is going to be a pretty even series between these two teams on this side of the bracket."

Game 3

North Hopkins 4, Maud 2

In the deciding game of the series, NH got the spark it needed from the bottom half of the lineup in the sixth inning.

With the Panthers trailing 2-0, left fielder A.D. Ramirez lead off the inning with a walk, followed by a single to left field from Lorenzo Rivera and then Steven Crocker loaded the bases as he was hit by a pitch from Maud pitcher Nathan Hartsell.

Second baseman Jy'Darius Hawkins then hit an infield single scoring Ramirez, and Dustin Clements smacked a single to left field scoring Rivera for the 2-2 tie.

With no outs in the inning, Jeremy Dixon lined a shot back to Hartsell, who misplayed the ball as Crocker came in to score. Ball then hit a deep sacrifice fly to centerfield for the 4-2 lead.

"That inning was definitely a key point in the game," the coach said. "We have never been a team that gives up, and it showed in that sixth inning."

Earlier in the game, Maud took control of the game by scoring two runs in the top of the second inning off Ball as Justin Foster and Justin Spry led off the inning with back-to-back singles. Taylor Carlow then grounded out to the pitcher as courtesy runner Stormey Jones scored from third, followed by a bunt single from Kyle Burnett for the 2-0 lead.

The Cardinals made a nice defensive play in the bottom of the third inning as with two outs, North Hopkins third baseman Joe Smiddy smacked a single to right field. On the play, Rickey Willis rounded second and was headed for third as Carlow threw a bullet to Burnett who tagged out Willis for the third out of the inning.

"He (Willis) just did not see me. He rounded the bag and I was holding him up all the way, and he didn't see me," Bymaster said.

Ball pitched the complete game, giving up two runs on six hits with two walks and four strikeouts.

The Panthers were led at the plate by Dustin Clements, who went 2-for-3 with an RBI, while Dixon, Ball, Smiddy, Ramirez, Rivera, Crocker and Hawkins each had one hit.

Game 2

NH 4, Maud 2

In the middle game of the series, the Cardinals came ready to play early off North Hopkins starter Ramirez.

Maud scored four runs in the bottom of the first inning as Bradley McClain and J.T. Stanley had back-to-back singles. With runners on second and third after both players stole bases, Bob Sorsby cleared the bases with a single to left field and scored on a sacrifice fly by Foster. With one out, Spry reached on an error by Clements and later scored in the inning.

Maud added to its lead in the bottom of the second on an RBI fielder's choice by Sorsby, which ended the evening for Ramirez.

Ramirez went two innings, giving up five runs on four hits with one strikeout and two hit batters.

"A.D. came in hurting and I felt like if he could carry us for 2-or-3 innings that I could close it out with Ball," the coach said. "When we got down and realized we were down four runs after the first inning, we were not going to give up hope and they hung in during that first game."

The Cardinals then added three more runs off Clements - who was in relief of Ramirez - as Justin Spry led off the third inning with a walk and scored all the way from first on a passed ball when Rivera, at catcher, couldn't locate the ball near the backstop.

That made the score 6-0 in favor of Maud and the Cardinals added two more runs in the inning to take an 8-0 lead.

In the top of the fifth inning, North Hopkins scored two unearned runs off reliever McClain. These came as Ramirez reached on an error, Rivera singled, Crocker walked, Hawkins hit into a fielder's choice and both runners scored on an error by the shortstop during Clements' at-bat.

The Panthers left the bases loaded in the fifth and sixth inning, they committed two errors and NH pitchers hit five Maud batters during the game.

Directions to Bullard Brook Hill - Go to Tyler and take a right on Loop 323. Then, take Highway 69 and go approximately 12 miles to Bullard. Turn right at FM 344. Go to the four-way stop in Bullard (first stop sign) and take a right on FM 2493. Go almost 1 mile and turn left into school’s entrance.

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