AURORA — The McDonald County Mustangs battled the two-time defending Class 4 state champion Aurora Houn Dawgs to the very end during a 1-0 loss Tuesday.

Aurora senior and Crowder commit Gage Singer and McDonald County senior Izak Johnson dueled, taking different approaches to similar success.

Singer earned the victory and he proved overpowering with 17 strikeouts and one walk over seven innings. He allowed four hits, all singles, and Singer fired 78 strikes in his 105 pitches. Singer fired 22 strikes on the first pitch, missing with a ball on the first pitch against only four batters.

Johnson, meanwhile, finished with 53 pitches in his six innings of work and he allowed one run (unearned) on four hits with two strikeouts and no walks.

Cole Martin led McDonald County with two hits and Boston Dowd and Kamerson Hopkins each had one. Johnson worked a walk and Joe Brown reached on an error for the Mustangs’ other runners.

Singer, Carson Barr, Trey Mulholland, and Dalton Cline each had one hit for Aurora with Cline responsible for driving in the game’s only run. Jay Lee crossed home plate after initially reaching on a fielder’s choice.

The Houn Dawgs scored the game’s only run in the second. Mulholland led off with a single, but Johnson threw him out at second on Lee’s bunt attempt. Lee advanced to second on a passed ball and scored on Cline’s two-out single.

McDonald County finished regular season play 10-18 overall with four straight losses entering a Class 5, District 11 quarterfinal game Saturday against host Joplin. The Eagles are 14-10 after winning their regular season finale 13-3 over Lamar.

Joplin rolled 10-1 over McDonald County when the teams played in mid-April.

In that game, Joplin plated three runs in three different innings and Grant Jones pitched a two-hitter with 10 strikeouts and three walks over seven innings.

Dowd and Martin both singled.

Blake Dean powered Joplin with three hits and Tyler Ledford had a pair of hits and RBI. Joplin’s first six hitters each had at least one RBI.

Please keep in mind that in this same six-team district last season, No. 6 seed Carthage won the title after defeating No. 3 McDonald County, No. 2 Neosho, and No. 4 Joplin.