A playoff run for Krum’s baseball team that began on the coldest May 2 in area history ended on the hottest day so far this year.
Princeton’s Carlos Contreras was even hotter Saturday as 90-degree temperatures made their 2013 debut at Bronco Field.
The Panthers’ right-hander pitched a four-hitter for a 5-0 win in Game 2 of the best-of-three Region II Class 3A quarterfinal series early in the day.
And, after six innings of catching the decisive Game 3, Contreras returned to the mound late in the afternoon and pitched 2 2/3 innings of winning, extra-innings baseball.
He even delivered the game-winning hit in the ninth inning of the 7-5 series clinching victory for the Panthers (28-10).
“That’s a tough kid there,” Krum coach Ray Miller said of Contreras.
The Bobcats (25-7) had been 4-0 in the 2013 playoffs before Saturday’s doubleheader sweep by Princeton. They began the playoffs two weeks earlier with an 11-0 win over Celina on a night when the thermometer read 43 but winds made it feel much colder.
“I’m really proud of these kids,” Miller said of his team. “They really worked hard and competed all year long.
“Today, when it looked like the game might be over, they competed their tails off.”
A solo homer and a pair of unearned runs let Princeton jump on Game 2 starter Josh Reeves for a 3-0 lead after two innings, and the Bobcats trailed the next 13 times they came to bat Saturday.
After scoring two runs in each of the first two innings off Game 3 starter Colten Lucas, the Panthers had a 5-0 lead when the Bobcats broke out the hitting sticks in the bottom of the fifth.
Justin Graham knocked in two runs for Krum in the fifth, and the Bobcats were down only 5-4 after Lucas’ hit pushed in a pair of sixth-inning runs, with Ty Damron getting an assist in his first-to-home dash from an outfield misplay.
Those runs chased Princeton starter Grant Gilbert, and an inning later, Contreras replaced reliever Riley Lowrance after a double by a 4-for-4 Zack Hughes tied the game 5-5 with one out in the bottom of the seventh.
“Carlos came up to me after pitching the first game and catching six innings in the second,” Panthers coach Richard Boring said. “He said, ‘I still feel loose. I don’t want it to go down like this. I want the ball.’
“And I gave it to him.”
Contreras intentionally walked Damron to set up a double play situation with Krum one base hit from a series-clinching, walk-off win.
The Panthers got the double play, but not the way they planned.
Lucas hit a sinking liner that Lowrance, now back at his original third-base position, snared an instant before it could hit the ground. He fired to second to double up Hughes before he could dive back to the bag.
“That was a game-saving play,” Miller said. “We needed that ball to get through.”
After a scoreless eighth inning, Krum reliever Graham saw his impressive seven-inning, stop-the-bleeding stint end by yielding a pair of two-out Panthers runs in the ninth.
Contreras, who was 4-for-5 at the plate in Game 3, singled home a teammate who had been hit by a pitch and scored on the last of Princeton’s 11 hits.
The Bobcats, who also had 11 hits, went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth as Contreras struck out three and did not allow a hit in his second mound appearance of the day.
In the first game, Contreras limited Krum batters to four hits in seven innings, two by Brendan Styles.
The Bobcats loaded the bases in the fifth, but Contreras got out of the jam by making Reeves one of his eight strikeout victims in that game.
Reeves got behind when he allowed a line-drive homer to Lowrance in the second inning of Game 2. He also had control issues, walking five and hitting two more batters in giving up five runs in three innings.
But two of those runs scored on a dropped flyball. Jack Patton pitched four innings of scoreless relief for Krum.
“We hit some balls early, but we couldn’t get them through,” Miller said of his team’s Game 2 hitting frustration. “In the second game, we got some hits to fall.”
Game 2: Princeton 5, Krum 0
Princeton 031 100 0 — 5 6 1
Krum 000 000 0 — 0 4 1
WP — Carlos Contreras. LP — Josh Reeves. 2B — P: Marcos Molina; K: Jack Patton; HR — P: Riley Lowrance.
Game 3: Princeton 7, Krum 5 (9)
Princeton 220 010 002 — 7 11 2
Krum 000 022 100 — 5 11 0
WP — Carlos Contreras. LP — Colten Lucas. 2B — P: Contreras, Logan Teel; K: Zack Hughes; HR — P: Marcos Molina.