Dobie reliever Ryan McCormack (44) prepares to be smothered by happy teammates after he nailed down the final out in the Longhorns' 11-10 victory over North Shore.
HOUSTON -- Between nosebleeds and knawed fingernails, the Dobie Longhorns won a playoff game on Saturday -- and a state playoff series -- that seemed beyond their reach just a few days ago.
Jesus Rendon, forced out of the game with a nosebleed in the first inning, announced his return to good health with a RBI single in the top of the seventh inning that provided the Longhorns with the go-ahead run in a wild 11-10 victory over favored North Shore in the deciding game of the teams' bi-district series.
The home-standing Mustangs, champions of District 21-5A, took the roller-coaster momentum of the contest to an extreem in the fifth inning when they sent 13 batters to the plate, scored seven runs and wiped out a 9-3 Dobie lead.
Suddenly trailing 10-9, the Longhorns went down in order in the sixth inning for the first time all day, what looked to be an ominous sign for Miguel Torres' team.
But Dobie, the fourth-place team in 22-5A, survived a based-loaded jam in the bottom of the sixth and then roared back to life in the top of the seventh.
Zach Long reached on a one-out ground ball that skipped away from North Shore shortstop Pedro Garza. Long stole second and then scored on a double to right-center by Xavier Johnson.
With two out, Rendon drove the first pitch up the middle to score pinch-runner Austin Nguyen from third base with the lead run.
The drama continued in the bottom half of the seventh as Dobie reliever Ryan McCormack walked the first two batters he faced, including slugging phenom Nick Buckner.
It was Buckner who hit a towering two-run homer to ignite North Shore's seven-run uprising in the fifth.
McCormack pitched cautiously to Buckner with one runner on in the seventh and walked him on a full-count pitch. But McCormack got Ricardo Salinas to strike out swinging and then coaxed a pair of fly balls from the Mustangs, the second a lazy pop to right that Wade Buisson flagged down to end the game and trigger a Dobie dogpile in the middle of the Mustangs' diamond.
It was Buisson who replaced Rendon beyond the plate in the bottom of the first after the Dobie catcher went to the dugout with a persistent nose bleed. And it was Buisson who got a key hit in Dobie's most productive inning -- a four-run eruption in the third that gave the Longhorns an 8-3 lead.
Jose Reyes led off the third with a double and scored on a single by Buisson to right-center. Dobie added additional runs in the inning on a wild pitch, a sacrifice fly by Johnson and a single by Tavarus Ansley.
The Longhorns hiked their lead to 9-3 in the top of the fifth when Johnson launched a solo home run over the left-field fence.
But Dobie's moment of euphoria dissolved into a nightmarish bottom of the fifth. All of it happened with two out.
Buckner, a junior who ranks as one of the nation's top prospects, belted his second homer of the series, a two-run shot that carried 400 feet to the opposite field. That drove Long, Dobie's starting pitcher, from the game.
North Shore quickly turned Buckner's appetizer into a feast.
Mike Gutierrez drove in two more runs with a single before a bases-loaded walk cut the Longhorn lead to one. Daring base-running gave the Mustangs the lead. On a hard-to-handle infield grounder, North Shore runners on third and second both scooted home.
The Longhorns advance to play Fort Bend Clements, the third-place team from 23-5A. Clements defeated Clear Creek 4-1 on Saturday to win that bi-district series, two games to one.
The scoreboard tells the story as Dobie's Zach Long adjusts his gloves after stealing second base in the top of the seventh.
Xavier Johnson (left) lashes a double to right-center to drive in Long and tie the game at 10-10 in the Dobie seventh; (right) Jesus Rendon drives a single up the middle in the seventh to give the Longhorns the lead.
Dobie reliever Ryan McCormack deals to North Shore slugger Nick Buckner in the bottom of the seventh. McCormack walked Buckner but retired the next three batters to end the game.
Dobie players raise a ruckus on the bench as teammate Wade Buisson bats in the fourth inning. Buisson connected for a double on the pitch.
Xavier Johnson pumps fists with Dobie teammates after hitting a solo home run in the fifth.
Dobie second baseman Jose Cabreja fires to first in the second inning to retire North Shore's Mike Lopez.
Jose Sanchez kicks off a two-run Dobie explosion in the second with a single to left.
Michael Munoz works the sixth inning for the Longhorns.
North Shore's Christian Montes, who ended the game with a fly ball to right field, flips away his helmet away as Dobie players leap into a happy dogpile on the infield.