The regional semifinal match between the Mitchell Mustangs (23-7) and Hernando Panthers(25-5) was as intense as any other tournament match being held Friday night.
The Mustang players and supporters showed up, as well as the Panther players and supporters, but the Panthers edged the Mustangs 4-3, in the bottom of the seventh.
The Mustang defense was playing impeccably through the first two innings. Executing defensively with precision in a pickle play between first and second base while the runner at third base tried to score. The Mustangs tagged the runner between first and second, then threw home just barely in time to tag the runner to prevent the Hernando score. The momentum was with the Mustangs, and the Mustang crowd erupted.
However, the Panther’s starting pitcher Brett Maggard was pitching equally as well as the Mustang defense by sending the Mustangs three-up three-down through the first three innings.
In the bottom of the third, the Panthers scored a three run homerun hit by Luis Colaiacomo to put Hernando up 3-0.
Mustangs Head Coach Scot Wilcox lightened the mood,when it seemed a little tight on Mitchell’s side.
“I sort of tried to loosen things up, and said ‘Hey, we don’t start scoring until we give up three anyway because that’s the way it seems our whole season's been going,” he said.
In the top of the fourth, the Mustangs responded quickly by getting the lead off batter on with a walk, and a hit up the middle by Conner Hale. Next batter up was Kevin Games, who crushed a ball out over the centerfield wall to tie the game up at three a piece.
“It was all reaction,” Games said. “It came in and I hit it out.”
There was no determining a sure favorite in this game, as neither team held a lead longer than one out.
Mustangs starting pitcher Games, wasn’t showing fear of the inside pitch, but it unfortunately caught up to him in the seventh inning.
In the bottom half of the seventh, the Panthers loaded the bases with two outs.
The next batter, Games plunked, which was the go-ahead, game-winning run.
“I was letting my fastball go, it just wasn’t going in the right place,” Games said after the match.
As unfortunate as the loss was, the Mustangs' performance was outstanding, and in no way a reason to hang their heads low.
“I will never define a season by one game," Wilcox said. "Whether we (won) or (lost) this game. I’m just really happy,”
The 2010-2011 Mitchell Mustangs varsity baseball team brought the school into unmarked territory by reaching the regional semifinal match, where no other Mustang baseball team has been. They’re also the 4-A 7 District Champions. The team came together at the end of the season to go on a historic ride for Mitchell High School entirely.
The Mustangs will miss the senior leadership that Conner Hale, Kevin Games, Gavin Hunt, Ryan Gilmore and Jordan Dietsch displayed. The under-classmen returning players; Cobi Johnson, Joe Koehler and Eddie Goscicki will have to step up for the Mustangs to contend. There is certainly talent returning, so look for the Mustangs to be contenders behind a very capable head coach in Wilcox next year.