For the most part, the McDowell Titans have been a runaway train for the second half of the baseball season, but they hit the end of the line Tuesday night.
The Titans (16-10) battled hard but fell 4-2 to the Porter Ridge Pirates on the road in the first round of the State 4A Playoffs. McDowell, the 20th seed, lost for the first time this season to a team outside the Northwestern 3A/4A Conference.
Porter Ridge (14-10), the 13th seed and the second-place team from the Southwestern 4A, advances to the second round Friday at fourth-seeded South Caldwell, the NWC champion.
“I was extremely proud of the way the kids played all season,” said Titans head coach Alex Smith. “I felt like we overachieved to win 16 games and be competitive in a first-round state playoff game with a chance to win.
“I’m proud of our coaches and players. We did a lot of things right on the field and off the field this year, and it’s been a successful season all the way around. We gave it all we had.”
The Titans led 2-0 before the Pirates scored a run in the bottom of the fourth, two in the fifth to take the lead, and one in the sixth for insurance.
Porter Ridge starter Blake Efird was outstanding, allowing two runs on six hits in 6 2/3 innings. He struck out seven, walked one and hit three batters. Matthew Broadway got the final out to record the save.
Efird out-dueled the Titans’ Brycen Seymore, who turned in yet another solid outing, giving up three runs on six hits over five innings. Seymore walked five. Seymore finished the year 5-4 with a 3.24 earned run average. Josh Maddux (1IP, 1R, 1H) pitched the sixth for the Titans.
Maddux also had a big night at the plate. The senior leadoff man went 3-for-4 with a double and a stolen base.
Gage Gentry (1-3, double, RBI), Justin Dula (1-2, double) and Ethan Davis (1-3, double, RBI) collected one hit apiece.
Both McDowell’s runs came via extra-base hits.
Maddux led off the game with a line-drive double to center field. Gentry drove him home with a two-out, line-drive double to right for a 1-0 lead.
The Titans added to the lead in the fourth. Dula led off with a hard-hit double to left, and scored one out later on Davis’s two-bagger to right field.
But the Pirates began chipping away at the 2-0 McDowell lead.
Efird (2-2, RBI) helped his own cause with an RBI single in the bottom of the fourth that cut it to 2-1.
Michael Starrs had a sacrifice fly and Connor Smith (1-3, RBI) an RBI single in the fifth to give Porter Ridge a 3-2 edge.
Jake Myers’ (2-2, RBI, 2BB) run-scoring single to left off Maddux in the sixth gave the Pirates a bit more of a cushion at 4-2.
In the top of the seventh, Efird plunked Ethan Hamm with two outs, and Broadway induced Seymore into lining out to center to end the game.
Seymore went hitless for just the fifth time all season, but still ended up batting .420, the highest average for a Titan player in recent memory.
Seymore is part of a four-player senior class that includes Maddux, pitcher Juan Campos and catcher Kell Smith, who missed all but the final two games after offseason shoulder surgery.
Coach Smith said he hates to see the seniors go.
“They’ve been more than just players,” said Smith. “They’ve been on-the-field coaches. They’ve made great grades, they’re hard workers. It’s a shame there was only four of them. It’s been a joy to be able to coach those guys.”