Mikie Luevano ripped a 90 mph fastball for a single to right field to bring home Micah Burke in the top of the seventh with the deciding run, and Devan Lindsey, whose home run ignited the Tigers in the fourth, finished what Kolby Kinkade started, shutting down Joshua in the Owls' final at-bat and Corsicana's Tigers advanced to the Class 5A Region II Semifinals for the first time since 2007 with a 4-3 victory Saturday.
Tigers coach Heath Autrey, whose teams had reached the Region Quarterfinals three times in his first seven years at Corsicana, talked about what getting over this huge hump would mean before best-of-three series against Joshua began.
"It would mean a lot," Autrey said,"because this is a special group of kids and because it's (assistant coach) Brian Nolen's last year. It would mean a lot because we haven't done it since I've been here."
They have now.
They did it -- and they did it with a tough, come-back, never get-down team that has grinded all year and risen to the occasion time after time with key hits and plays up and down the lineup and with a pitching staff that has beaten the odds all year.
Kinkade, a sophomore who pitched in relief to get the save in the Tigers' 12-11 win in Game 1 on Thursday, had 76 pitches left when he took the mound Saturday to start the biggest game of his life. And Kinkade retired Joshua's Cam Brister for the final out in the fifth with his 76th pitch.
He left it all on the field.
He gave up a run in the first and an unearned run in the second, and then retired the final 10 Owls he faced, slamming the door on a Joshua team that scored 17 runs in the first two games and entered Game 3 with a mountain of momentum after beating the Tigers 6-0 in Game 2.
But Kinkade took all that away from the the Owls, who will have nightmares of Kinkade, who shut them out for 3 1/3 innings Thursday after they scored nine runs to close to 12-11, and then mowed them down in the middle innings Saturday, striking out four along the way.
Kinkade has been nothing short of spectacular in the postseason. He pitched a six-inning, two-hitter with a career-high 10 Ks to beat North Forney to nail down the bi-district title, and then got the win in relief when he shut out Lindale for the final three innings in a one game, winner-take-all Area round playoff victory last week at Price Field, where the Tigers erupted for an eight-run sixth inning to win 9-5.
He gave up three hits in the first two innings Saturday then held off Joshua, and the Tigers erased a 2-1 deficit and led 3-2 when Kinkade walked off the mound.
They scratched out a run in the first when Lane Fuentes scored on a wild pitch. Fuentes, who was moved into the leadoff spot for the first time in the postseason as Autrey shook up his lineup, led off with an infield single, moved to second on Burke's sac bunt and raced to third and then scored on two wild pitches.
The Tigers trailed 2-1 in the fourth when Lindsey hit a bomb off Joshua's Zach Peters, whose fastball is in the 90 to 92 mph range. Lindsey, a senior, has hit four postseason homers, including a shot against Longview Pine Tree when he was a freshman, and a towering blast last week against Lindale.
None was bigger than Saturday's shot to left that put a jolt into the Tigers' comeback. They took a 3-2 lead in fifth when Blake Hoffman led off with a walk, raced to third on Burke's hard single down the right field line, and scored on Luevano's single to left.
By now, Luevano, a freshman who plays like he was born on the diamond, is at the top of every team's Corsicana scouting report. It was Luevano who ignited the Tigers' eight-run inning against Lindale when he ripped a bases-loaded triple to knot the score at 5-5, and sure enough it was Luevano who found himself once again in a clutch situation on Saturday -- not once but twice.
The Owls tied things up at 3-3 with a run in the bottom of the sixth, but the Tigers, who have been resilient and played with a "We are never out of it" mentality all year, pulled off a two-out rally in the top of the seventh.
Burke, who has been clutch on the mound as the team's ace of the staff all year, and an incredible clutch hitter at the plate as well, came through again. It was Burke, whose hard single lifted the Tigers to their 6-5 lead last week against Lindale, and it was Burke, who came through with a two-out double to the gap in right-center in the seventh Saturday.
Burke came flying home on Luevano's single.
Lindsey got the win in relief, thanks in part to a brilliant play by Fuentes and Luevano in the sixth.
Brek Galbreath, who was murder on the Tigers in all five games, including the two district showdowns, doubled and scored on a throwing error to knot the score at 3-3 and put Blake Alexander at second with no outs in the bottom of the sixth.
Joshua's Andrew Bell ripped a liner, and Fuentes, who has had a Gold Glove season at shortstop, made a diving catch, and then immediately threw to second, where Luevano, who made at least three strong plays Saturday, had the presence of mind to cover the bag quickly, and the fast-as-lightning double play erased the threat and kept things tied.
To make the play even more significant, Joshua's Matt Haley followed the double play with a single. He was later stranded at second when Lindsey retired Lane Snow on a pop-up to Ty Nolen at first.
Lindsey gave up a leadoff walk in the seventh then got the next three outs, mowing down the top of Joshua's order and ending the game by getting Galbreath on a fly out to Hoffman in left.
The Tigers (25-9) and Joshua (24-12) split two games in the brutal District 14-5A race, and split two more this week at Dallas Baptist University, where Game 3 was scheduled to start at 10 a.m. and didn't get under way until 5:20 p.m. as both teams waited out the stormy weather.
Autrey had been waiting eight years to get to the fourth round of the playoffs, and his Tigers will play Frisco Lone Star (32-7) in a Region II Semifinal in a best of three game series at DBU Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.