At this point, it's only improbable if you don't believe. It's also quite clear that the Midlothian Panthers believe in their late-season magic.
The Panthers once again staved off a season-ending loss — twice — against Royse City on Saturday at Ronnie Clanton Field. Midlothian fell in the opening game of the best-of-three 5A area championship at Royse City on Friday evening, 5-0, but bounced back nicely for a pair of wins Saturday afternoon, 14-4 and 5-0.
Following the wins Saturday, Midlothian head baseball coach Ray Hydes pointed to the Panthers "fighter's mentality" and senior leadership as the driving forces behind their continued magical run.
"These kids are just resilient and keep fighting. That is what they are about. We know we lack some talent in some areas but they just play hard and they have a fighter's mentality," Hydes said. "They keep swinging and swinging, and when they get knocked down, they get back up. I'm so proud of them, and I couldn't ask for more as a head coach. It is all about them, and our senior leadership is just phenomenal. We have six guys, and the reason we are here is because of those guys."
Royse City collected eight hits to the Panthers two in a 5-0 win Friday evening. The game was the first in a best-of-three 5A Region II area championship series.
The Bulldogs plated three runs in the second inning and two in the second, while starting pitcher Blake Anderson cruised through six innings of work on the bump.
Anderson struck out eight, walked five and scattered two hits on 111 pitches.
Nathan East recorded the first two out of the top of the seventh inning for Royse City and Cole Stewart used five pitches to close out the Bulldogs win.
Caden Hawkins took the loss for the Panthers. He struck out eight and walked one. All five runs charged to his ledger were earned.
Nathan Humphreys and Josh Tankersley recorded the lone Midlothian hits, both singles.
Following a short rain delay to start the day, the Panthers exploded for 14 runs on 13 hits to run-rule Royse City on Saturday afternoon at Ronnie Clanton Field in Midlothian, 14-4.
It was the Bulldogs who jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning. The advantage did not last long.
Humphreys began the Panthers half of the first inning with a six-pitch walk.
He was soon joined on the basepaths by Tankersley.
Humphreys later scored on the second passed ball of the inning and Tankersley crossed a few pitches later when Ryan McCaskill singled into right field.
A pair of Royse City errors and a Hunter Southard single then scored McCaskill and Anthony Ferrante to put the Panthers on top, 4-2.
The Bulldogs then scratched two more runs in the top of the second inning to tie the game.
Though it didn't seem likely at the time, McCaskill drove home the game-winning run in the bottom of the second inning with a second consecutive four-pitch single to right field. His base knock scored Tankersley, who advanced to third following a Royse City error in left field.
The Panthers later scored eight runs in the fifth inning on three walks, three singles and a Hunter Harington triple for a 13-4 lead.
The run-rule walk-off came in the bottom of the sixth inning when Lance Rains singled home Southard with one out in the frame.
With momentum now clearly on the Panthers side, Midlothian returned the favor paid in game one with a 5-0 victory to clinch the 5A Region II area championship against Royse City on Saturday.
All five Midlothian runs came in the top of the fourth inning at Ronnie Clanton Field — all with two outs.
Hunter Rainwater singled on the first pitch of his at-bat to start the two-out rally.
He was followed by a Humphreys single, walks to Tankersley and McCaskill and an RBI single off of the bat of Ferrante.
Harrington then delivered the fatal blow to the Bulldogs postseason dreams with a triple roped into right-center field on the fourth pitch of his at-bat.
Tankersley and Caden Copeland combined for the seven-hit shutout, with Tankersley tossing six of those no-run innings.
He struck out six, walked two and scattered five hits. Copeland then closed out the series with a 19-pitch seventh inning, striking out one and walking one.
Both teams stranded 10 base runners.
The Panthers now face District 14-5A-foe (28-6-2) Cleburne in the 5A Region II quarterfinals.
Cleburne won District 14-5A with a 9-3 record, which included a two-game sweep of Midlothian on March 19 (5-1) and March 22 (5-0).
The Yellow Jackets defeated Kaufman in three games and then swept Whitehouse to reach the regional quarterfinals.
The Panthers enter the regional quarters with a 22-12 record after winning six of eight ball games.
Game one between No. 8 Cleburne and Midlothian is at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Cleburne. Game two is slated for 7:30 p.m. Friday in Midlothian. Game three, if necessary, will be at 3 p.m. Saturday at a site to be determined by a Thursday coinflip.
Fred Phipps/Mirror contributed to this report.