SMITHVILLE -- Thorndale seniors Colby Hilton, Jeff Kiesling and Miles Grisham hoped a late-inning pep talk would provide a spark, not an explosion.
Their Bulldog teammates sensed the urgency in their words. After watching a 4-0 lead evaporate into a 4-4 deadlock with Shiner, the seniors huddled their teammates together in the dugout, urging them to respond to the challenge.
By the time the Bulldogs quit running the bases in the sixth, they had scored 10 runs against the shell-shocked Comanches on Saturday afternoon at Smithville Field. Thorndale coasted from there, winning 14-6 to advance to the Region IV-Class A championship this week against the winner of the Fayetteville-D'Hanis series.
The Bulldogs (25-5) won their best-of-three series 2-0 and are confident they will defend their state baseball title.
"We should win it again this year and probably next year, too," sophomore outfielder Marcus Gest said.
Gest, a surprise starter batting ninth in the lineup, felt pretty confident after going 3 for 3 and scoring three runs.
In Thorndale's 10-run sixth, Gest and shortstop Austin Falke had two hits apiece and scored twice in the inning.
"Once we get going like that, there's no stopping us," said Hilton, the team's designated hitter.
Thorndale outfielder Cirilio Reyes started the sixth-inning onslaught by ripping a grounder to shortstop that was booted for an error. Gest followed with a single, Grisham walked and Falke gave the Bulldogs the lead for good, 5-4, with a bloop single to center.
Thorndale sent 14 batters to the plate in the sixth. They took advantage of five hits, four walks, two hit batters and one error.
Thorndale coach Scott Holder gathered his three seniors together before the inning started, instructing them to light a fire beneath their younger teammates.
"I told them to take them in your clutches and lead them," Holder said.
Holder gave special credit to the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters in the lineup. Reyes and Gest combined for five runs, four hits and two RBIs Saturday.
The offensive uproar made a winner of starting pitcher Josh Culp, who pitched effectively for five innings. With the game in the bag, Victor Reyes pitched the final two innings.
A two-run triple by Thorndale center fielder Kalen Revia in the third capped a four-run inning, giving the Bulldogs early momentum. Shiner (20-8) fought back, rallying behind outfielder Dustin Mayberry's homer to tie the game 4-4 after five.