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Byrd first base coach Ford Pemberton kept repeating one simple message to his team Saturday afternoon at Airline Field.

“Believe in yourself!”

The No. 11 seed Yellow Jackets (24-11) needed to stay mentally strong since they entered the day as big underdogs against No. 3 seed Airline (30-5) and its 17-game win streak, which included three victories over their district rivals. A determined Byrd squad left as 5A semifinalists after routing the Vikings 10-4 and 9-1 in a quarterfinal doubleheader.

“I told our guys last night it was going to take everybody in the dugout and it did,” Byrd coach Greg Williams said. “We know Airline’s a great team.”

The Yellow Jackets drew walks, bunted for hits, found gaps and even got a big Game 1 home run from shortstop Zavier Moore as part of a relentless offensive attack. Seven players hit safely at least twice and No. 9 hitter Jacob Fussell went 4-of-6 with a two-run triple that broke Game 2 open in the second inning.

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Vikings ace Kyle Backofen threw a complete game Friday night to begin the best-of-three series for his team’s 30th win, tying a school record. They jumped ahead early Saturday thanks to four first-inning walks by Yellow Jackets lefthander Jonathan Fincher, who Williams said didn’t have his best stuff.

But he fought to get out of the inning with the bases loaded, and Byrd scored two runs after the bottom of the inning started with two quick outs. That trend would continue for much of the afternoon, as the Yellow Jackets kept coming up with two-out hits and Airline left 19 runners on base in nine innings before Brennan Ertz began to dominate on the mound.

“He started against them in district this year and it was probably his worst outing he had all year,” Williams said. “Today was up there with one of his best.”

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