GRANITEVILLE -- Midland Valley's Mustangs admit they play better when their backs are against the wall.
So they must have felt pretty comfortable Friday night going into the bottom of the fourth inning, down 9-2 to Georgetown in the Class AAA Lower State championship.
Although the Mustangs provided a late rally for the hundreds of fans, it was the Bulldogs' turn to storm the field in a victory celebration as they won the series 11-7, earning a shot at the state championship.
"We weren't supposed to do this," Bulldogs coach Mike Johnson said. "I feel pretty good because this wasn't supposed to happen. I just took a bunch of underachievers, and they made it happen."
Georgetown will face the winner of the Riverside-Fort Mill series for the state title, beginning Monday.
The Mustangs end their season at 21-13, having won 13 of their last 16 games.
Midland Valley seemed to love a deficit throughout the season, but not the kind of hole pitcher Brandon Massey put them in early.
The Mustangs had not forgotten Massey's two homers in the Bulldogs' 15-7 Game 2 win Wednesday. If they had forgotten, the senior left-hander quickly reminded them as he took a Kory Hall offering well over the rightfield fence for a three-run homer as Georgetown took a 4-1 first-inning lead.
Massey was 3-for-4 on the night with five RBI. The senior pumped his total to eight postseason home runs, highlighted by his three against Brookland-Cayce.
"He's made his status with his bat, that's for sure," Johnson said. "He's carried us all year long, both with his pitching and hitting."
The Mustangs' first-inning run came on a leadoff homer from John Rooks, who finished 2-for-4. But the Bulldogs, who managed 14 hits in the game, quickly widened the gap again.
After six innings, Mustangs fans still roared as Joey Hicks smacked a double to score Jonathan Nelson and Brandon Prothman followed with a double to drive in Hicks, cutting Georgetown's lead to 9-7 going into the seventh.
Hicks led the Mustangs going 2-for-3 with two RBI.
But what goes around comes around and, unfortunately for Midland Valley, that meant Massey in the top of the seventh. Massey's line single brought in catcher Phil Perry for the 10-7 lead. Aubrey Sports followed with a single to score Brent Swails for Georgetown's final run.
"We can stand to be down one or two runs," Mustangs coach Bruce Zuelke said. "But when you start talking about five or six, that's a different story. They hit the ball well, and they deserve to be going (to the state playoffs)."
Patrick Green covers sports in South Carolina for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (803) 648-1395.
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