The Robstown Cottonpickers advanced to the Area Championship with a late-inning win Friday at home, followed by a 5-1 win Saturday in Roma to win the best-of-three series against the Gladiators.

The Pickers thrilled the Cottonpicker Field crowd Friday night with three hits to open the bottom of the seventh inning winning 4-3. The win came shortly after the crowd heard over the public address system about the Lady Pickers' come-from-behind softball win against Moody in Corpus Christi.

The girls and boys both advanced in District 31-4A playoffs for the final year before the teams move to 3A next season.

Coach Steve Castro made some late-inning pitching changes Friday night before his ball club scored a run in the bottom of the seventh inning to win Game 1 of the series against Roma.

Tied 3-3, the bottom of the seventh began with some controversy as lead-off hitter David Rodriguez started the inning with a bunt down the first base line.

The ball initially rolled foul, then trickled back into fair territory where it hit the foot of Roma pitcher Julio Hinojosa and was ruled a base hit.

"I was kind of disappointed in the pitch that was selected," Castro said of the bunt up the right side. "He hit the line with it, but it came back (fair). That's the playoffs. Everything can happen in the playoffs."

Picker left fielder Smiley Gonzalez batted next and belted the hardest hit ball of the night, smacking a double off the left-centerfield wall.

With no one out and the heart of the order coming up, Castro was cautious and held Rodriguez at third.

Roma was forced to bring the infield in on the grass to prevent the potential winning run from scoring on a ground ball, and the outfield also had to play shallow to be able to cut Rodriguez down at the plate on a fly ball.

Right fielder Ryan Velasquez came to the plate having flied out to left in his prior three at-bats.

Velasquez wasted no time and jumped on Hinojosa's first offering, lining to left field again, but this time the ball sailed by Gladiator left fielder Fernando Garza for a game-winning single as Rodriguez scored.

The Pickers improved to 19-11 overall after Saturday's win.

Hinojosa threw all 6-plus innings for Roma, allowing four runs on nine hits. Hinojosa utilizes a deceptive delivery, turning his back to the hitter before throwing, and doesn't throw hard. He recorded only two strikeouts on three walks.

"We had scouted them and knew what to expect. His delivery was difficult with him turning his back," Castro said. "He had a good change up and a sneaky fastball in there."

Ruben Elizondo started for Robstown and pitched 6-plus innings, allowing one run on three hits.

Elizondo was relieved by Ryan Velasquez in the sixth after Gladiator right fielder Herbey Pena led off the inning and reached on an infield error.

Velasquez gave up a walk, single and two-RBI double to Gladiator catcher Alberto Salinas that tied the game 3-3.

Manuel Rodriguez relieved Velasquez and got the third out in the sixth inning, and pitched a scoreless seventh inning to get the win.

Robstown got out to a 1-0 lead in the second inning when center fielder Brandon Gallegos singled to right, driving in shortstop Chris Contreras who had doubled to center.

Roma tied the game 1-1 in the top of the third when Gladiator second baseman Angel Garcia drilled a double to right field, knocking in center fielder Erick Moreno who had reached on a fielder's choice.

The Pickers regained the lead in the bottom of the third when Elizondo singled to left, driving in left fielder Smiley Gonzalez and making it 2-1 Robstown.

Robstown extended the lead to 3-1 in the bottom of the fourth when designated hitter Felipe Rios scored from second base on an errant throw to first as the Gladiators attempted a double play.