Denton outlasted Graham 9-8 on the road to win its second straight Texas Collegiate League Rogers Hornsby Division crown Tuesday night while McKinney battered Coppell 10-1 at Copperhead Field to take a 1-0 lead in the rain-delayed Tris Speaker Division playoffs.
The Outlaws advance to meet the Coppell-McKinney best 2-of-3 winner Friday at either Coppell or McKinney. Home field advantage in the best 2-of-3 is determined by the top regular-season record among the two finalists.
Coach Derek Matlock's crew, which had fought off some late-season batting problems, exploded for eight unanswered runs to overcome a 5-0 deficit at Steer Stadium and hold off the Roughnecks after a two-run Graham rally in the bottom of the ninth.
Leadoff man Aljay Davis (Northeastern Oklahoma A&M/Oklahoma) headed the Outlaws' hit parade with a 4-for-5 evening. Craig Corriston, a Paris (Texas) JC standout who came to Denton just after the season began, contributed a two-run homer, two hits, three RBI, and three runs scored to the cause.
Graham rattled Denton starter Kurt Pessa (Rice) for his first earned runs of the year. First baseman Trent Lockwood (Hill College) blasted a grand slam to help the Roughnecks take the early five-run lead. It was the second grand slam in two nights in the playoffs after Denton 1B Trevor Head (Dallas Baptist) launched a four-bagger vs. the Roughnecks Monday night.
Six no-hit innings in relief by Kyle Gainley of the Outlaws and Texas-Arlington provided the comeback drive as the freshman lefty won his first playoff decision. Russell Young (Dartmouth) absorbed the loss after spelling Roughnecks' starting pitcher Michael Raymond (Belmont Abbey).
Matlock's contingent advanced to 6-1 in TCL postseason play with the victory and has lost just once - 2-1 to McKinney in Game 2 of the 2005 championship round - over two years.
In Coppell, McKinney utilized home runs by DH Matt Smith (Texas Tech), OF Wilson Tucker (Belmont) and 2B Matt Cavagnaro (Penn State) to lead a 13-hit attack and down the No. 1 seed Copperheads in Coppell.
Righty Allen Harrington (Lamar), who led the TCL in regular-season victories with a league-high 7-1 mark, tossed six solid innings while his teammates pounded Coppell hurlers.
Jess Todd, the TCL all-time strikeout leader with 85 in 61 innings pitched and a record 15 against Weatherford on July 22, was knocked out by a four-run rally in the top of the sixth inning by the Marshals, who closed 2006 one game behind Coppell in the Tris Speaker Division standings.
Cavagnaro, who was tied with Aljay Davis for 2006 TCL leadership with 60 hits, added the opposite field homer in the top of the eighth inning to a solid night at the plate and in the field.
Coppell travels to McKinney Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. for Game 2 of the Speaker Division playoffs and has a chance to go 4-0 in the last two division series against the Copperheads. Last year the Marshals downed Coppell 6-3 and 3-1 to advance to meet Denton, which edged McKinney 2-1 in games to win the TCL crown in the Outlaws' first year of existence. A third game, if necessary, occurs Thursday at 7:05 p.m. back at Coppell before the championship playoffs open Friday.