PROSPER – Facing elimination, the Harmony Eagles put together a pair of big innings that looked good enough to extend their season.
Both times the Van Alstyne Panthers responded with offensive outbursts, getting within a run to keep the pressure on. But, while Easton Blackstone may have bent a couple of times, the right-hander never broke and got the Panthers in order to close out a 7-6 victory in Game 2 of the Class 3A Region II final on Friday night.
Harmony (30-8) and Van Alstyne (27-6) will battle one final time with a trip to the state tournament at stake in the deciding Game 3 at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Royse City.
Blackstone allowed seven hits and four walks to go with six strikeouts and was 2-for-3 with a walk and scored twice, Drew McNeel singled, walked, was hit by a pair of pitches and scored twice and Evan Patterson drove in two runs for the Eagles.
The Panthers got three runs in the sixth on David Terrill’s RBI single to left. Samuel Tormos reached on an error and Zach Smith hooked a single into left. A sacrifice moved them up and Terrill followed with a hit to pull Van Alstyne within three runs.
Pinch-hitter Cade Morgan walked to load the bases with two outs and Tyler Wilson walked on four pitches to force in a run. Chandler David then worked a walk on a 3-2 pitch and Harmony’s advantage was down to 7-6.
Blackstone was one pitch away from another walk to force in the tying run but got a strikeout to send the Eagles to final inning with a one-run lead.
A two-out rally in the sixth inning allowed Harmony to extend its advantage to 7-3 without the benefit of a hit. Drew McNeel, Blackstone and Gage Goddard walked to load the bases and a pitching change brought on Smith, who got a grounder to first but Terrill couldn’t handle it. The ricochet to Nathan Cuthbertson gave him a chance to flip back to Smith coming over to cover the bag but it was behind him, allowing another run to score.
Patterson walked to reload the bases before a wild pitch allowed Goddard to race home and make it a four-run margin again.
As soon as Van Alstyne fell behind 4-0, the Panthers nearly got it all back in the bottom of the fifth. Conner Loftice singled between a pair of strikeouts and then Wilson lifted a two-run homer over the high wall in left to cut the deficit in half.
David, in his first at-bat because of a lineup switch following a pitching change, tripled to center when the ball took a high turf bounce over Cameron Helpenstill’s head. Blackstone tried to pick him off, the throw hit David in the back and went to the fence, allowing him to make it a 4-3 margin.
Harmony had finally broke through in the top of the fifth. After an out turned over the lineup, five straight Eagles reached base to produce four runs.
Drew McNeel was hit by a pitch before Blackstone’s single to left. Goddard doubled to the left-field wall and Harmony was on the board. Trent Hart snuck a single between third and short for an RBI hit and then, with the infield in, Patterson had a two-run single up the middle.
Van Alstyne’s early opportunities were limited. Blackstone did walk Wilson and Rhett Gallagher in the first inning but the free passes were sandwiched around a double play.
Nathan Cuthbertson had a one-out infield single in the second and moved up on a groundout but Blackstone got a strikeout to close out the frame.
In the third, Wilson singled to right with one out and Jordan Caldwell sacrificed him over. Rhett Gallagher reached on an error when the second baseman had a slight bobble but courtesy runner Jake Carroll was picked off to end that potential threat.
Harmony put the leadoff runner on in each of the first three innings and the Eagles’ struggles with pushing those across continued.
Drew McNeel and Blackstone singled to open the third before Goddard banged into a double play to shortstop.
After Hart walked to put runners at the corners, David buckled down once again with an inning-ended strikeout, his sixth punchout to that point of the contest. He finished with nine in four and a third inning.
A leadoff walk by Hunter McNeel in the third was followed by a pair of strikeouts and a groundout to first.
In the first, Drew McNeel was hit by a pitch and Blackstone reached on an error when David threw a comeback into center trying to start a double play. He then struck out the side to wriggle out of the jam.