Big inning propels MCA to second straight state title

ARLINGTON — The Midland Classical Academy Knights are back-to-back state champions.

MCA (23-3) erased an early 5-0 deficit, exploding for eight runs in the bottom of the third, en route to a 13-6 victory over Temple Central Texas Christian in the TAPPS Division IV championship contest Wednesday afternoon at Clay Gould Ballpark on the campus of University of Texas-Arlington.

This time, no late-inning dramatic comeback was necessary. Just an early-inning rally and a shutdown pitching performance from senior Paul McMillian, whose phenomenal semifinal four-inning stint on the mound less than 15 hours earlier enabled the Knights an opportunity to repeat as champs.

MCA struggled early, committing six errors in the first two innings that led to a 5-0 deficit. 

“We did not get to bed till around 3 a.m.,” said MCA’s Reagan Layh. “And we left the hotel around 9:30 a.m. for the game, so we came out a little sluggish. And this year everybody was aiming for us after winning last season. You have to take it to them and fight for it.”

Then the Knights erupted in the bottom of the third. Layh doubled home a run, Levi Bayley had a two-run single, Kameron Armstead had an RBI single, Nathan Swallow had an RBI triple. Then, after a Temple Central Texas Christian (20-8) change on the mound, Swallow toed home plate on a wild pitch for the eighth run of the inning, in which MCA sent 13 batters to the plate, and the Knights holding an 8-5 lead.

The critical top of the fourth saw TCTC load the bases on a pair of singles and a walk. That’s when McMillian came in for starter Kyle Martinez. McMillian had just tossed four innings the night before to earn the victory.  He promptly fanned the first batter he faced.  A single — the only hit McMillian would allow in the title game in four innings — added a run for TCTC, before a force-out at the plate followed by an inning-ending strikeout on a 3-2 change-up prevented any further damage.

“Coach (Charlie McMillian) calls me Bulldog,” said McMillian, who retired the last seven batters he faced. “We had a short turnaround from last night’s game. But I was ready.”
“Paul has that drive to compete,” said MCA assistant coach Glen Morrison.  “He had an incredible game.”

The Knights pushed across a run in each of the fourth and fifth innings, and McMillian’s two-RBI double in the sixth keyed three insurance runs. And the celebration began after a 1-2-3 final inning.

“This team has heart,” said MCA senior Josh Patterson. “Grit. We came from behind a lot this year.  Such a great feeling that all the hard work paid off.”

Senior Cort Miller relished his second championship. 

“This is such an incredible feeling,” he said.  “Winning last year was sweet, and winning this one may be even sweeter.”

It was a total team effort offensively for MCA.

McMillian did it with the bat as well, recording a double and a single, three RBI, a run and a hit by pitch.

Reagan Layh had three hits — a pair of doubles and a single — driving in one run.  Freshman Bayley (single, two RBI, two runs, and a walk), Armstead (a single, two runs, two RBI and a stolen base), Parke Swallow (a single, three runs and two walks), Logan Ruff (single and a run scored), Cort Miller (one RBI, a Run, and a walk), Josh Patterson (single, walk and a sacrifice bunt), and Nathan Swallow (trple, RBI, two runs scored).

Nathan Swallow, a sophomore first baseman, had an unassisted double play in the top of the fifth when he made a leaping grab off a line drive and made it to the bag to get the existing runner on base.

The victory came on the heels of a thrilling 12-8 extra-inning rallying semifinal win over Fort Worth Temple Christian, in which MCA scored four runs in the top of the seventh to tie and then another four in the top half of the eighth to advance to its second consecutive title game.

A year ago, the Knights made history in dramatic fashion, rallying from a 4-0 deficit, and scoring three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to celebrate a 5-4 walk-off victory over Tomball Rosehill Christian in Waco. Layh scored the game-tying run and Miller crossed home plate with the championship winning tally.



Central Texas  230      010      0          —          6          5          2

Midland Classical        008      113      x          —          13        11        8

Degenhardt, Richardson (3) and Reagan Ragsdale. Kyle Martinez, Paul McMillian (4) and Logan Acuff. W – McMillian. L – Degenhardt. 2B – MCA: Regan Layh 2, McMillian. 3B – MCA: Nathan Swallow.