EMORY — The Carthage Bulldogs used their playoff pitching 1-2 punch for the second straight week, leaving the Lorena Leopards helpless on the side of the road.
Jackson Blissett came back with a second straight quality pitching performance on Friday night, combining for a one-hitter with Mackenson Bobo, after Seth Smith did it on Thursday night.
The results were a 9-2 win over the Lorena Leopards and a spot in the Region III-4A semifinals against the fourth-ranked Sweeny Bulldogs (26-7).
Graduations have forced some movement in starting times for this tournament as well as the distances needed to be traveled.
Game 1 is set for 7 p.m. Thursday at Don Sanders Stadium in Huntsville.
Because of Sam Houston State’s graduation, the series will be moved to Beaumont, Texas for Game 2 at Lamar University’s Vincent-Beck Stadium. Game 3, if necessary, will follow 30 minutes later.
Although he wasn’t expecting a combined one-hitter, this is what Carthage head coach John Goodwin was hoping for “when” or “if” Jackson Blissett returned to action from a bulged disc in his lower back.
“Of course there was never any guarantee of that,” the coach said. “I’d never seen an injury like that on a kid so young. He was in a back brace for some two months and we weren’t able to do anything. One he got the clearance to throw, we were throwing. He was the reason we scheduled the April 12 game (Hamshire-Fannett), then we just kept finding more ways to work him.
“That’s the reason we worked so hard with Mackenson Bobo and Brandon McNeely and with Brian Parker. As a result we have some quality pitching right now.”
And that pitching was more than a match for the Leopards.
The Dawgs staked Blissett to an early 1-0 lead turning a hit batter and an error into a 1-0 lead.
But Blissett got into a little trouble of his own doing in the second and the Leopards took a 2-1 advantage.
A walk and a single put Leopards on base and the junior allowed one run on a passed ball and the other on a balk.
The Bulldogs would tie the game in the third and then start to pull away with two in the fifth, two in the sixth and three in the top of the seventh.
Gunner Capps, who was 2 for 4 with three RBIs, drove in the run to tie it at two and Dylan Leach reached on an error that allowed both he and another runner to score in the fifth and make it 4-2.
A sacrifice and a Noah Anderson single brought in two more in the sixth to make it 6-2.
Mason Bobo doubled to lead off the seventh and Leach followed with a single. Capps doubled them both in to make it an 8-2 lead. McNeely drove in the final run with a sacrifice fly to left.
The game still had a little excitement left in it as Blissett gave way to Mackenson Bobo on the mound after a one-out walk and proceeded to load the bases with a walk and a hit batter. But a line shot to Seth Smith at first turned into a double play with a throw to Leach for the final out.
“I thought we played really well against Lorena,” Goodwin said. “We got the good pitching and some timely hitting. The defense played pretty well in spots. We just need to keep getting better.”