ROCKWALL -- Ryan Pate's message to his 2017 Gilmer team was to finish empty. That is, finish with nothing else left to give and no regrets.

The Buckeyes rallied back from an injury-riddled start in district play and then advanced all the way to the fourth round of the Class 4A state playoffs, but their run ended Wednesday at Rockwall High School to Decatur in a one-game playoff.

While there were tears and some consoling hugs from the several hundred East Texans in attendance, Gilmer walked off the field feeling like it belonged in the late May scramble. 

A fifth-inning error that otherwise would have been the third out of the frame and Trey Penny's two-RBI triple the next at-bat was the difference in Decatur's 2-0 victory. Otherwise, starting pitcher Nathan Mize went toe-to-toe with Decatur ace Bryce Elder as the Buckeyes' defense did the same against a supremely sound opposing group of fielders.

"There may be some people who disagree that saw us play earlier this season, but we're not a fourth place team when healthy," Pate said. "We kind of expected, when we were healthy, to be right in the middle of things. To a lot of people, this was a surprise. I think, if we had been healthy, we would have been in the same spot. But if we hadn't of had to face the adversity, then I don't know if we would have been prepared for this."

Decatur's Bryce Elder owned a one-hitter before hitting the pitch count limit with one out in the top of the seventh.

Both squads had chances before Decatur (26-10) dealt the fatal blow.

Gilmer (18-16) stranded a runner in scoring position in the top of the first, left the bases juiced in the fourth and stranded other runners in the sixth and seventh frames. Decatur had two realistic opportunities to get the go-ahead run before ultimately doing so.

Mize allowed two hits and two walks while striking out three Decatur batters in through 4 and 2/3 innings of work.

He should have safely made it out of the fifth. The error was a ground ball that skipped right toward an infielder's glove.

Decatur's Elder mostly relied on his own arm to get the job done before hitting the 110-pitch limit with one out in the top of the seventh. He struck out 10 batters versus four walks and one hit.

Gilmer reliever Kade Clemens, who entered the game with Penny standing at third base, prevented more damage through 1 and 1/3 innings. Decatur's Wilson Hicks earned a short save with back-to-back outs.

The turning point for the Buckeyes ironically began on a great play by second baseman Kollin Hurt, a Louisiana Tech football commitment. He charged in from second base on Eddie Fernandez's sacrifice bunt attempt and nailed lead runner Dayne Chapman at second base on a fielder's choice for the half-inning's first out.

After a fly ball for the second out, Tyler Ticknor made contact for the error. That advanced Fernandez into scoring position.

Penny took the very next pitch to right field. The ball landed fair, rolled into foul territory and nearly got to the pole for a triple.

"Better teams expose mistakes and make them more costly," Pate said. "We didn't field the ball and didn't make that particular play for the third out. You know, after that, one thing we've always focused on is the next pitch.

Gilmer Kade Clemens, at third base at the time, and second baseman Kollin Hurt catch Trey Penny in a rundown.

A sixth-inning error with one out, Gilmer's second and final of the game, was cancelled out by Clemens.

The Buckeyes' last gasp in the seventh frame featured the sixth, seventh and eighth hitters in the lineup. Seven-hole hitter Jayden Hall reached base on a full-count walk with one out in the inning to snap an 0-for-2 skid.

Gilmer's next batter popped out on a sacrifice bunt attempt. The final batter flew out to right field.

Decatur now awaits the winner of the Pleasant Grove and Argyle series in the 4A Region II championship round.

Pleasant Grove and Argyle begin their series today at Mike Carter Field in Tyler.

"I told the kids just a minute ago that it was one of the most difficult years of coaching I've ever experienced," Pate said. "At the same time, it was one of the most rewarding and enjoyable seasons."

Decatur celebrates its Class 4A regional semifinal win against Gilmer at Rockwall High School.

Decatur 2, Gilmer 0

4A Regional Semifinals
At Rockwall High School

Gilmer             000    000    0    --   0    1    2
Decatur           000    020    X   --    2    2    1

Pitchers and catchers

  • Gilmer: Nathan Mize, Kade Celemens (5) and Jeremy Kelly
  • Decatur: Bryce Elder, Wilson Hicks (7) and Dayne Chapman

WP -- Elder
LP -- Mize
SV -- Hicks

Triples

Decatur: Trey Penny