MIDLOTHIAN - The Taylor Ducks scored three times in the bottom of the sixth inning to break a 1-1 deadlock, holding on for a 4-2 win over the Spring Hill Panthers here Thursday to open a Class 4A Region III regional semifinal series.
The Ducks improved to 30-3-1 on the season while Spring Hill, which had won six in a row and had swept their last two playoff series, drops to 27-8-2.
The series resumes at 2 p.m. on Saturday back at Midlothian. If the Panthers are able to tie things, a third-and-deciding game would follow.
Jake Jansky singled twice and drove in two runs for Taylor. Chris Perez added a double, and Dominick Hartman and Aiden Aguero chipped in with singles. Aguero also drove in a run.
For the Panthers, Josiah Mackey singled twice, and Trent Thompson, Jax Stovall, Grant Burton and Emory Allen all singled. Stovall and Burton drove in runs.
Chris Perez went 6.2 innings on the mound for the Ducks, striking out five, walking six and allowing no earned runs. Cohen Tyree faced one batter and got the final out.
Conner Smeltzer (9-3) took the loss for the Panthers. He stuck out five, walked three and gave up one earned run on five hits.
Spring Hill threatened in the top of the first, loading the bases with two outs on a single by Burton and walks to Mackey and Smeltzer, but Perez got out of the jam with a strikeout.
In the second, Thompson singled and Wyatt McFadin drew a walk, with McFadin later scoring on a single by Stovall to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead.
Taylor tied things at 1-1 in the bottom of the fifth when Perez doubled and Aguero singled to drive in courtesy runner Conner Cobb. The Ducks loaded the bases on a hit batsman and a single, but Smeltzer coaxed a double play and then fanned a batter to keep things knotted.
Mackey singled and courtesy runner Jaden Giddings moved to second on a bunt by Smeltzer in the top of the sixth. Tidwell followed with a walk, but again Perez got out of trouble with a strikeout and a line out.
Taylor finally broke through in the bottom of the sixth.
Hartman singled and Nick Treuter walked to get things started. After Smeltzer got the next two men on a strikeout and a lineout, Aguero walked to load the bags and Braylan Alderete reached on a dropped third strike - scoring Hartman. Jansky followed with a single to chase Aguero and Devin Valdez home to put the Panthers in a 4-1 hole.
Allen singled to lead off the Panther seventh, moving to third when Stovall got aboard on an error. Allen later scored on a fielder's choice off the bat of Burton to make it 4-2, but Mackey's flyout on the infield ended things.