Panthers prove to be comeback kids

Posted Monday, May. 13, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new game sites that were changed after the print edition went to press. The changes are in bold below.

It’s probably not the formula Colleyville Heritage baseball coach Alan McDougal will endorse. But hey, this is the Class 5A playoffs. And you don’t question the karma, whatever it is.

If you haven’t kept track, the Panthers (23-13) have been blown out in the first game in each of their playoff series against Coppell and Midlothian only to rally to win four elimination games and keep their season alive.

Against Midlothian, a 15-6 loss in the first game – highlighted by a disastrous Midlothian 11-run sixth inning – forced Colleyville Heritage to rally. The Panthers did so with 9-0 and 8-3 wins and eliminated Midlothian for the second consecutive postseason.

Colleyville Heritage meets fellow District 6-5A mate Hurst L.D. Bell in the Region I quarterfinals this weekend for the second time in three years. The two met in 2011, when the Blue Raiders swept. The Panthers won both meetings this year, 3-2 and 12-5.

Game 1 on Thursday will be at 7 p.m. at Bell. Game 2 on Friday will be at 4 p.m. at Colleyville Heritage. If necessary, Game 3 will be at noon at QuikTrip Park in Grand Prairie.

For the third consecutive year, the Panthers have played at least two playoff rounds and are in their third quarterfinal round under McDougal. This likely eliminates the perception the program once had when it was eliminated in the bi-district round for four consecutive seasons.

“I’d like to think we’ve crossed a threshold,” McDougal said. “Maybe we’ve shed that feeling where there’s the fear of losing.”

Norwood comes up big

Right-hander Lane Norwood picked the right time to deliver his best 2013 performance in Game 2 against Midlothian. He fired a one-hit shutout and lost the no-hit bid in the seventh. While he’s never been overpowering, Norwood has always had a penchant for pitching to contact and trusting his defense.

“He was awesome,” McDougal said. “Lane had command of two pitches and was just sharp throughout. He didn’t give up a walk, and our guys made plays behind him.”

Notable

McDougal dropped senior right fielder Cody Thomas from the leadoff spot to the No. 2 hole in Games 2 and 3 against Midlothian. “He changes so much the way teams play,” McDougal said. That seemed to help the likes of Preston Palmeiro and Christian Gonzales, who had big series. Each player collected at least four hits in Saturday’s two games … McDougal wouldn’t confirm, but it’s likely he will start Jake Thompson on Thursday and Norwood on Friday. And since Sam Kaskovich has been reliable, he would be the candidate for Saturday.

District 6-5A’s run

While it has been maligned as a soft district, 6-5A still has three teams playing in the postseason between Colleyville Heritage, L.D. Bell and Grapevine. What stunned the high school baseball community is when Bell upset Flower Mound in the bi-district round. In fact, 5-5A was generally regarded as a better district than 6-5A, so maybe experts were surprised when 6-5A won three of the four playoff series. All three teams have a combined playoff record of 12-4.

“Good thing the playoffs aren’t played on paper, or else there may be only one of us still playing,” McDougal said. “But in high school athletics, momentum is such a big thing. When you’re in a game in the fifth inning, and it’s tight, anything can happen.

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