Despite a last inning rally by the Davidson Panthers, the Destin Marlins defended their home turf Monday to beat the visiting Panthers 10-6 in the semifinal round of the Okaloosa County Middle School Baseball Tournament.

“That’s baseball,” said Destin Coach Matthew Cawthon when asked about the 10-2 lead early on. “It’s a crazy game and a lot of stuff can happen in a short amount of time.”

With the win the Marlins advanced to play Ruckel Middle School of Niceville for the championship. Game time was 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. Results were not available at press time.

In Monday’s game with Davidson, Destin jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first inning. With one out and Jackson Crews drawing a walk, Preston Murphy rippled a double to left field. The next two batters walked to force in a run and Murphy scored on a passed ball. Cooper Stanford knocked in the last two runs on a single to left center.

In the top of the second, Destin’s Alex Kruse struck out the side for a scoreless turn at bat for the Panthers.

In the bottom half, Destin added three more runs on a home run up the middle by Luke Edelman.

In the top of the third, the Marlins sat the Panthers down again in short order with Jackson Crews catching a fly ball, Kruse striking one out and then Murphy catching a pop fly at short stop.

Destin scored one in the bottom half on a hit and three walks for an 8-1 game.

In the top of the fourth, Davidson scored one run on a couple of hits and an error.

Destin got the run back and then some in the bottom half. Blake Orr and Caleb Reader both walked and scored on a single up the middle from Aiden Garrity for a 10-2 advantage.

The Marlin defense stood strong again in the fifth, sitting them down on a pop fly and two ground outs.

In the sixth, Kruse getting high in his pitch count, Cawthon pulled him. Davidson picked up a run on a hit.

Then in the seventh, Cawthon used four pitchers and the Marlins finally got themselves out of a tough situation. Davidson had scored three runs and the bases were loaded. But eighth grader Garrity came in and forced a pop fly, which Crew took care of in right field for the win.

“Alex Kruse stepped up as a seventh grader … it was an unbelievable job he did. He did a fine job,” Cawthon said.

Kruse faced 23 batters in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out five, gave up four hits and one walk.

As for the bats, Destin connected for seven hits total with Edelman and Stanford with two hits each.

“They had a left hander that gave us trouble at time be we just plugged in there and got it when it counted. It was good game, and we’re excited to be playing tomorrow,” Cawthon said as he walked off the field after Monday’s game.