KILGORE -- After rolling to an easy mercy-rule win in Thursday's Game 1, the Harleton Wildcats found themselves on the opposite end of the spectrum when the series resumed Saturday.

But Harleton overcame an early seven-run deficit with an eight-run second inning, and the Wildcats broke a tie with a run in the bottom of the sixth, leading to a 10-9 defeat of Beckville in Game 2 at Driller Park. The win vaulted Harleton (28-2) into its first UIL state baseball tournament since 2005. The Wildcats will play in the Class 2A state semifinals Wednesday from Round Rock's Dell Diamond.

Beckville, which jumped out to a 7-0 lead after scoring three runs in the top of the second, finished its season at 27-3.

Harleton first baseman Levi Pilkington brings in the final out of the Wildcats' 10-9 win over Beckville in Game 2 of their Class 2A Region III championship series Saturday in Kilgore. (Mark Martin, ETSN.fm)

"I knew that they were going to have to fight to close us out," said Harleton's first-year coach D.J. Beck. "That's just been the kind of team we've been all year. And I knew we were going to score runs, it was only a matter of time. It was just a matter of holding our composure."

With the game even at 9-9 in the bottom of the sixth, Harleton senior Jacob Earle dropped a two-out RBI single into shallow center field, who walked with one out and stole second.

Will Davis, who tossed five shutout innings in the series opener, retired Beckville in order in the top of the seventh for the save.

"He was coming in to close it if there was an opportunity," Beck said of Davis, who needed only 85 pitches to pick up the Game 1 win two days earlier.

Senior Zach Shepherd pitched the game's first six innings to improve his record to 8-1 on the year. He allowed seven runs (two earned) through two, but kept the Bearcats off the scoreboard until the sixth.

Shepherd, who threw 128 pitches on the day, surrendered a pair of runs in the sixth, but preserved the tie by getting out of a based-loaded jam.

"That kid battles his tail off," Beck said. "He doesn't have to have me out there, he knows what he has to do. He throws strikes, that's what he does. I think he walked two in (the sixth), which is not typical of him. And I knew, with the type of competitor he is, he was going to come at them and make them put it in play."

Earle led Harleton by going 2-for-3 with a walk and three RBIs. Joe Earle was 2-for-4 with two RBIs, while Shepherd also drove in two runs.

"On the bus ride over, there wasn't anything said," Beck said. "They knew what we had to do, and we knew it wasn't going to be easy, and our kids just battled. And they did, too, they're a great ball club. We knew that we had to earn everything we got."

But it didn't start well for Harleton.

Harleton's Hunter Jones reacts after the Wildcats take the lead in the second inning of their 10-9 win over Beckville in Game 2 of their Class 2A Region III championship series Saturday in Kilgore. (Mark Martin, ETSN.fm)

Beckville opened up a 4-0 lead in the top of the first. The Bearcats got RBIs from Ethan Harris, Ben Bridges, and Brandt Harris. Beckville added three more runs in the second, thanks in part to RBIs from Ethan Harris and Bridges.

"I don't want to say that it was a 14-0 win (in Game 1), but I'm sure that had a little something to do with it," Beck said. "It was something we had to settle into."

Harleton answered immediately by putting up eight runs in the bottom of the second for an 8-7 lead. The inning featured only four hits, but included two Beckville errors, four walks and a hit batsman. It was Jacob Earle's two-run single that gave Harleton the lead.

Joe Earle's RBI groundout in the third pushed the Harleton advantage to 9-7, a lead that remained intact until the top of the sixth.

John Bounds delivered an RBI single and later scored the game-tying run on an error. But Shepherd got out of the inning when Trey Lindsay popped out to first base, leaving the bases loaded.

"The past two years we ran into (defending champion) Douglass on this field," Beck said. "Some of our kids played in both of those games, and they knew what to expect. They gave some words of advice to the younger guys, and that really helped."

Harleton's Hunter Jones high-fives teammate Will Davis (11) after scoring a run during the Wildcats' 10-9 win over Beckville in Game 2 of their Class 2A Region III championship series Saturday in Kilgore. (Mark Martin, ETSN.fm)

Class 2A Region III Championship

Game 2 -- At Kilgore's Driller Park

Harleton 10, Beckville 9

Beckville            430    002    0    --    9    9    2
Harleton             081    001    x    --  10    9    6

Pitchers and catchers
  • Beckville: Ethan Harris and Ben Bridges
  • Harleton: Zach Shepherd, Will Davis (7) and Jacob Earle

 

  • WP -- Shepherd (8-1)
  • LP -- Harris (9-2)
  • S -- Davis

 

Doubles
  • Beckville: Braden Wise