MANSFIELD — For a team so used to being the one of the most dominant in Texas, this season has been one bad bounce after another.
Midlothian's strange struggles continued after Friday's 1-0 loss to Mansfield Timberview High School at the Wolves Den, where the Panthers were a hit away from shifting the season's momentum in their favor.
"Our kids are battling. To be honest, it's hard because we're not accustomed to this around here," said Ray Hydes, the head baseball coach at Midlothian High School, about his team's recent losing trend. "It's been a really tough season and our kids are really waiting for something good to happen. Just look at the last line drive up the middle. It deflects right to the second baseman. If that's a hit, it's a tie ballgame."
The one-run loss was quizzical for many reasons.
The Panthers have lost three consecutive games — including Tuesday's 2-1 district-opening loss to Mansfield Legacy High School — for the second time this season and for only the second time in more than three years.
Despite the graduation and subsequent loss of powerhouses like Robert Brueggemeyer, Raby Hampton, Zach Humphries and Jordan Johnson and mainstays like Richard Due, JB Garrett and Ryan Breaud from a team that finished District 8-6A play undefeated, Midlothian's lineup is stacked with a mixture of veteran and young talent.
Names like Drake Girard, Jett Johnson, Mason Quinn, Tyler Spain and Drake Wayland dot a lineup that is young but primed for a breakout. Midlothian may have also discovered its second power arm beside Texas Christian University commit Russ Smith and possibly the next to step into an ace role when he graduates.
Blake Bolgiano, the Panthers boy on the mound, nearly outpitched his counterpart, striking out nine batters, walking two and allowing only six hits with 87 pitches in six innings of work.
"Blake threw the ball exceptionally well," Hydes said about his junior starter. "All year he's pitched he hadn't really been in the zone, but he found his stuff tonight. There were a couple players that got some big hits for us, too, and helped us stay close. Those are things that we can take and build on."
Mansfield Timberview's Dakoda Newman struck out seven in seven innings, threw 105 pitches at a 67.6 percent strike rate and walked two batters.
The Wolves six hits came via Tres Thomas (2), Brandon Picazo (2), Leo Aguilar (1) and Jacob Munoz (1). Picazo drove in the game's only run with a third-inning single down the third-base line.
The Pathers outhit Mansfield Timberview eight to six with help from Quinn, Spain, Matthew Coleman, Anthony Ferrante, Jett Johnson, Josh Tankersley and Luke Woolen. Ferrante, Midlothian's hits leader, finished 2-for-3 at the plate with a single and a double.
Ferrante and the Panthers also loaded the bases in the sixth inning and stranded Tankersley at third after he hit a leadoff triple in the top of the seventh.
With the loss, Midlothian fell to the bottom of the district 10-5A standings with games against Waxahachie and Mansfield Lake Ridge High Schools on the horizon. The Indians and Eagles are tied with Mansfield Legacy's Broncos for first in the district.
Upset wins against each, especially after their 7 p.m. matchup with No. 7 state-ranked Waxahachie on Tuesday at MHS Panther Field, could catapult the Panthers back into the postseason and district title conversations.
"We've had our opportunities and the ball's not bouncing our way but that's the way baseball is," Hydes said. "The kids' effort is there and we had great pitching [Tuesday] and tonight, they were not just our nights. We need something good and positive be can build on. You've got to make that stuff happen. You can't just wish for it. We're going to swallow a little bit of humble pie, keep fighting and battling and see what happens at the end. We're only two games in and we get to play everybody again. It's a long season and anybody can beat anybody."
Marcus S. Marion can be reached for story idea submissions or concerns at (469) 517-1456. Follow him on Twitter at @MarcusMarionWNI.