For a brief moment, the Alice Coyotes had the upper hand against No. 2 state-ranked Calallen.
In the end, however, it was the Wildcats who had the advantage against their District 31-4A mates, beating the Coyotes 8-3 Friday night in their one-game regional quarterfinal showdown at Cabaniss Field in Corpus Christi.
Calallen advances to the Region IV semifinals against Austin Lake Travis in a best-of-three series beginning Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in Austin. Games two and three, if needed, are Saturday at 5 p.m. at Calallen.
"We knew Alice is a good team. We knew they were swinging the bat well and that they were very much improved from the last time we played them in district. We knew we had to play them tough," longtime Calallen head coach Steve Chapman said.
"The guys got after it tonight, they fought hard the whole game," Alice skipper Victor Escamilla said. "When you play a team like Calallen, you have to be firing on all cylinders…tonight we weren't as sharp (as we needed to be)."
The Wildcats proved to be too much down the stretch for Alice, despite trailing the Coyotes 3-1 after the third inning.
Alice starter Trent Schulze, who was coming off a no-hitter in his last start against Mercedes in game 2 of their bi-district series, was roughed up for seven hits and five runs before being lifted for sophomore Adrian Gonzalez.
After cutting Alice's lead to 3-2 with a single run in the fourth inning, Calallen broke the game open in the fifth with five runs on two hits to take a commanding 7-3 lead.
But for a while, the Coyotes played the defending Class 4A state champions neck and neck, scoring three runs on three hits in the third to take a 3-1 lead.
Matt Garza got things going for the Wildcats leading off the game with a sharp single up the middle. Two passed balls and an RBI triple later by freshman third baseman Wyatt Mathisen, and Calallen was off to a 1-0 lead.
Schulze settled down and got out of the two-out jam and the Coyotes gave the senior hurler some run support with the three runs in the third.
Calallen (31-2 overall) answered back with one run in the fourth and their big inning in the fifth with five tallies to lead 7-3.
The Wildcats added a single run in the sixth to make it 8-3.
Schulze (6-2) suffered the loss in 4.1 innings of work. Gonzalez pitched 1.2 innings of relief work and was relieved by Roman Gomez, who finished the game.
"We were trying to stretch it a bit and get Roman in around the last two innings," Escamilla said. "Trent and Adrian did good, we just didn't come out as sharp as we should have."
The loss ends the Coyotes (24-10) season at the quarterfinal round for the second year in a row.
Last year the Uvalde Coyotes, who lost to No. 1 C.C. Moody 10-0 Friday night, knocked Alice out in the same round after the Coyotes had beaten Moody in a one-game Area playoffs in Alice.
Calallen advances to the Region IV semifinals against the winner of Saturday's late game at Dell Diamond in Round Rock between Hutto and Austin Lake Travis.
In the other regional playoff matchups, top-ranked Moody advances to the semifinals and awaites the winner between San Antonio Alamo Heights and Kerrville Tivy.
Josh Molina, A.J. Benavides and Gomez had two hits each for Alice and Justin Guerrero added another, for all seven of the Coyotes' runs.