Panthers lefty gets it done in biggest game ever

Posted Monday, May. 06, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Sam Kaskovich learned at about 10 a.m. this past Saturday that he would pitch the most important game of his life.

For someone who had been used here and there for the last two months, all the senior soft-tossing left-hander was charged with doing was saving Colleyville Heritage’s season.

No problem.

“I kept telling myself that I just had to treat this like it was another start,” Kaskovich said. “I didn’t want to make it any bigger than it was.”

Still, when he surrendered two runs in the first inning and put his team behind, he didn’t yield. Kaskovich finished throwing zeroes in the final six innings and stranding Coppell’s tying run at second base as Colleyville Heritage (21-12) upended the Cowboys 3-2, to win the deciding third game and the Class 5A Region I bi-district series. Kaskovich threw the first complete game of his high school career.

For the second consecutive year, the Panthers are advancing to the area round and will face District 7-5A champion Midlothian (23-7-1). Game 1 is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday in Midlothian. Game 2 is at 1:00 p.m. Saturday at Colleyville Heritage. A deciding third game would follow 30 minutes after the conclusion of Game 2.

It turned out that Coppell played right into Kaskovich’s approach. The Cowboys’ lineup feasted on fastballs, but Kaskovich’s mixture of offspeed and a fastball that tops out at 75 mph frustrated it. In the seventh, he surrendered a leadoff single. A sacrifice moved the tying run to second. But Kaskovich worked through it with a fly ball to right and a groundball to shortstop.

“He’s been solid for us all year,” coach Alan McDougal said. “I threw him in the L.D. Bell game [regular season finale] because I wanted to make sure he would be ready. He did a great job of mixing his pitches.”

The Panthers scored only six runs in the series but the timing of them was perfect. After being blown out, 10-0, in the first game, they scored two runs in the bottom of the sixth and the game-winner in the bottom of the seventh to pull out the second game, 3-2.

On Saturday, the Panthers scored their three runs in the bottom of fourth. The last on a two-out pinch hit single to left center by specialist Blake Knotts.

“That’s what he’s been doing all year for us,” McDougal said of Knotts. “With the way the game was going, I didn’t think we were going to get another chance like that. In that spot, I felt like I had to make the move.”

No expectations?

In previous playoff appearances, the Panthers have arrived being viewed as a target. And to be honest, they didn’t handle it very well, with early bi-district exits.

When the series with Coppell started, several parents or fans admitted they didn’t even know who the Panthers would face in the area. Track history served as the evidence.

Then, when the Cowboys punched the Panthers in the first game, 10-0, it must have felt like it was “here we go again.” Colleyville Heritage’s pitching staff has been a source of concern all season. Actually, that blowout may have been a blessing.

“The longer we played the second game, the longer I thought we played like we belonged and that we were just as good as them,” McDougal said.

Actually, Kaskovich had a better way of putting it.

“I don’t think this trip to the playoffs changed the way we looked at ourselves,” Kaskovich said. “But I think other teams probably looked at us differently.”

Briefly…

With 21 wins, Colleyville Heritage reached 20 wins for the eighth consecutive season under McDougal.

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