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Top sports stories of the year: No. 5
Baseball: More heroics from Hill lead Dragons past El Paso Montwood
By Justin Thomas, email@example.com
Having just seen a one-run lead erased in the bottom of the sixth inning Saturday in Game 3 of its Region I Semifinal against El Paso Montwood, Southlake Carroll's baseball team continued to show its character.
The Dragons responded with four runs in the top of the seventh before going on to defeat the Rams, 5-2, to advance to the regional final.
Carroll needed a win earlier Saturday in Game 2 just to force a third and decisive game after falling Friday, 2-1, in the first contest of the best-of-3 series at Midland's Citibank Park.
The Dragons have a shot at clinching a spot in the UIL Class 5A State Tournament for the first time since 2008, when the Dragons take on Arlington Martin in a best-of-3 series starting today at TCU.
The last time Carroll reached state it advanced to the finals before falling against Plano West.
After coming up short in Friday's opener, 2-1, the Dragons responded Saturday to win Game 2, 5-1, before closing out Montwood with the late rally in Game 3.
In rounds two and three of the playoffs - in particular because of an injury to ace pitcher Tyler Alexander - Carroll head coach Larry Hughes opted to play one-game series when he won the toss to help combat the short-handed staff. That wasn't the case against Montwood and the Dragons figured to be in an even bigger hole after Game 1 starter Greg Maisto dropped a decision for the first time in more than two months.
However, Carroll's staff responded when needed, limiting Montwood to three runs on 13 hits combined in the two Saturday games.
Ben Leeper was effective on the bump as a starter for Carroll in Game 3, throwing five-plus innings as the Dragons claimed a 1-0 lead in the top of the third. But Leeper ran into trouble in the bottom of the sixth when the Rams scratched across a run to pull even.
Despite seeing its lead disappear, Carroll responded with four runs in the seventh thanks to more late-inning heroics from Kenny Hill. The state-title game MVP in football, who also delivered a key run-scoring double in Carroll's regional quarterfinal win over Flower Mound, drove in the go-ahead runs in the final frame to lead the Dragons to the win. Hill finished the contest with three RBIs.
The Dragons took the four-run lead to the bottom of the seventh, where Ben Sego nailed down the win for Carroll after entering late in the sixth.
Chris Altimont led the team with two hits, while Darien McLemore and Nick Arst each drew a pair of walks.
The Dragons staved off elimination in Game 2 Saturday behind a complete game from Sean Thompson, who allowed three hits with seven strikeouts.
Carroll got on the board first, scoring in the top of the first and third to go in front, 2-0. Montwood responded in the fifth to cut the lead in half before the Dragons picked up some breathing room in the top of the seventh on a three-run double from Drew Brown. McLemore and Arst drove in early runs for Carroll and had two hits apiece.
In the Game 1 loss, the Dragons struck first but saw the Rams tie the game, 1-1, in the top of the third before posting the winning run in the top of the seventh.
Maisto was solid on the bump, throwing six-plus with three strikeouts before running into trouble in the final inning.
Altimont had two hits and drove in Carroll's lone run, while McLemore had a pair of singles.
Carroll advances to face a Martin squad that was unbeaten in District 4-5A and dropped just four games total this season. In the postseason, the Warriors have swept Odessa in the bi-district round, defeated El Paso Franklin in three games in the area round, swept Lubbock Coronado in the regional quarterfinals and topped L.D. Bell in three games this past weekend in the regional semifinals.
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