WACO — Playing against a veteran Midlothian team Thursday, Harker Heights learned a playoff lesson in Game 1 of its bi-district series at Waco ISD Sports Complex.
Midlothian put Heights on its heels early in the playoff opener, scoring the first seven runs of the game, and never looked back in a 12-1 victory that ended by run-rule in the sixth.
Afterwards, Heights head coach Glenn Cunningham was hopeful that his team got the jitters out as it will be facing elimination when the teams meet again at 7 p.m. today.
“They played well,” Cunningham said. “We were a little hesitant maybe. Young guys, young kids, some of them maybe the first time they’ve been in this situation.
“We’ll be better tomorrow.”
Midlothian (26-4) scored in every way Thursday, taking advantage of Heights miscues to put up five runs on just two hits in the third and ending the game with the long ball on a pair of homers by Dylan Sweney and Blake Barr that accounted for the final three runs of the game.
Meanwhile, senior pitcher Ryan Minnix kept the Knights (18-9) off-balance at the plate, allowing just two hits, both of which came in the fourth inning.
Outside of the fourth inning, the lefty Minnix was perfect on the mound.
“I was feeling great today, especially when my team hits, I really like it,” Minnix said.
“I haven’t really gotten that big of a lead yet this year so it was nice.”
The run support began with back-to-back RBI singles by Ethan Davis and Tylor Frailey in the bottom of the second to give Midlothian a 2-0 lead.
After an error allowed Midlothian to score again in the bottom of the third, Ethan Hallmark ripped a two-run double before Frailey hit a two-run double of his own three batters later for a 7-0 lead.
Hallmark, the Panthers’ No. 5 hitter, was 3 for 4 with two RBIs while Frailey, the No. 9 hitter, was 2 for 3 with three RBIs as the bottom half of the lineup contributed heavily for Midlothian.
“It’s just the nature of the beast,” Panther head coach Ray Hydes said. “We’ve picked each other up all year long so I’m proud of those guys.”
Heights scored its lone run on a sacrifice fly by Caleb Dean in the top of the fourth, but Midlothian got the run back when Matt Heck scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the inning.
“We were a little erratic with the baseball,” Cunningham said. “We gave them some opportunities and they took advantage of it.”
After going up 9-1 on a JB Garrett RBI groundout in the sixth, Midlothian ended the game behind two powerful swings from Sweeney and Barr.
Sweeney blasted a 2-2 pitch over the left field wall for a leadoff homer in the seventh and, two batters later, Barr sent a laser over the same wall for a game-ending, two-run shot.