WAXAHACHIE -- The Carthage Bulldogs ran into a buzz saw Thursday night in their Class 3A regional quarterfinal playoff series opener at Paul Richards Park, and now find themselves one game from elimination.

Caldwell jumped all over Carthage pitching and rolled to a 15-1 win in a game that was stopped after five innings because of the 10-run mercy rule. For a team that had won 19 of its last 21, Thursday's result came as a shock to Carthage (23-9).

"They got 18 hits in five innings," said Carthage coach Jim Goldman. "That's something none of us envisioned, but it's only one game and I can guarantee you we'll be here ready to go on Saturday."

If Carthage's season is to continue it will need to win twice when the resumes Saturday. First pitch for Game 2 is scheduled for 2 p.m. back in Waxahachie.

The Bulldogs had no answer for a Caldwell (22-5) lineup that sent at least nine men to the plate in three consecutive innings from the second to the fourth. Seven of the Hornets' 18 hits went for extra bases.

Starting pitcher Jake Payonk, who held Carthage to one run on three hits in five innings, starred at the plate as well. He was 5-for-5 with a pair doubles and three RBIs to lead the charge for Caldwell, which got at least one hit from everyone in the lineup.

Luke Noack was 3-for-4 with a double, three RBIs and two runs scored, Tanner Luna went 3-for-4 with a homer and four runs and Tristen Janca doubled twice and drove in two runs in the Caldwell onslaught.

Micah Templeton was the lone bright spot for Carthage at the plate as the third baseman collected two of the Bulldogs' three hits. Kolby Blissett's sacrifice fly RBI in the fifth inning accounted for Carthage's only run of the night.

It was a rough night for the Carthage pitching staff, including ace William Rittenberry. The Bulldogs starter lasted just 2 1/3 innings, allowing eight runs on eight hits with six strikeouts and a walk.

"With William it was just one of those things you just don't expect," Goldman said. "He's kinda shell-shocked right now, but like I said we're playing a series. There is a tomorrow for sure, and we're going to show up and have a good practice tomorrow. We're going to give them our best on Saturday."

Carthage had trouble finishing innings defensively. Eight of Caldwell's 15 runs scored with two outs, perhaps no inning more costly than the Hornets' four-run second.

With Caldwell leading 1-0, the Hornets had a runner at first with two outs when an non-fortuitous bounce helped open up the floodgates. Blaine Suehs appeared to nub a foul ball to the right of home plate when the ball kicked wildly back into fair territory, allowing Suehs to reach first base safely on an infield hit.

Matt Lemon was then hit by a pitch to load the bases for Luna, whose solo homer in the first -- also with two outs -- gave Caldwell the 1-0 lead. Rittenberry got Luna to swing and miss on strike three at ball in the dirt that skipped past catcher Jack Morris, which allowed the batter to reach first and the Hornets to score their second run of the game.

Payonk followed with a three-run double into the gap in right-center, and just like that, Caldwell had opened up a 5-0 lead on Carthage in the second inning.

"The ball rolled back in; it was way foul," Goldman said of the cue shot off the bat of Suehs. "When it happened I think Jack had some dirt or whatever in his eyes and couldn't see, and the guy's safe at first. On the dropped third strike I thought we had the out at first, then everything snowballed."

It got worse from there as Caldwell sent 12 batters to the plate in third inning, which saw the Hornets score seven runs to extend its lead to 12-0. The Hornets then sent nine batters to the plate in the fourth and three of them scored.

The winner of the Carthage-Caldwell series will advance to the regional semifinals and face either College Station or Robinson.

Caldwell 15, Carthage 1 (5 innings)

Class 3A Region III Quarterfinal Playoff Series -- Game 1

At Paul Richards Park, Waxahachie

Caldwell           147    30    --    15    18    0
Carthage          000    01    --      1      3    2

Pitcher and catchers
  • Caldwell: Jake Payonk and Dylan Drgac.
  • Carthage: William Rittenberry, Cagan Baldree (3), Tyler Musgrove (4), Blaine Tomlin (5) and Jack Morris.

 

WP -- Payonk.
LP -- Rittenberry.

 

Doubles
  • Caldwell: Payonk (2), Austin Scarmardo, Luke Noack, Tristen Janca (2).

 

Home runs
  • Caldwell: Tanner Luna (first inning, solo).