If you’re a high school softball or baseball team still lucky enough to be shining up a diamond in mid-May, you’ve put together a jewel of a season already.
Just 10 teams remain in the playoffs in the Tribune-Herald’s Central Texas coverage area – two softball squads and eight baseball teams. And the local baseball contingent is guaranteed to trim some teams by next week, since two Class 2A pairings are comprised of all-Centex matchups in Bosqueville-Riesel and Mart-Valley Mills.
With the UIL state softball tournament only two weeks away, and the state baseball tournament arriving a week later, it’s safe to say these teams have their dreams within reach. Here’s a series-by-series breakdown for each of the remaining Centex clubs.
LORENA vs. BRIDGE CITY
What: Class 4A regional semifinal
When/Where: Game 1: 7 p.m. Friday at Sam Houston State University, Huntsville; Game 2: 2 p.m. Saturday at Sam Houston, Huntsville; Game 3 (if needed): follows Game 2
Records: Lorena 26-3-2; Bridge City 28-5-1
Notes: Lorena again conjured up some late-inning magic in extending its season. The Lady Leopards used a five-run sixth inning to break open a tie game with Salado and advance in a one-game playoff.
Rachel Williams has proven steady in the circle for Lorena, and she also delivered a clutch two-run double in the win over the Lady Eagles. But she hasn’t done it alone, as Lorena has received ample contributions from the likes of Jordan Generals, Kaci Donaldson and Damiana Longo.
The Lady Leopards will have to be on their game against big-bopping Bridge City, which features one of the top players in the state in junior pitcher Kassidy Wilbur.
Wilbur features a 20-3 record and 0.57 ERA in the circle, and is no less formidable in the batter’s box, with a .435 average, 9 home runs and 31 RBIs.
MOODY vs. BELLS
What: Class 2A regional semifinal
When/Where: Game 1: 7 p.m. Thursday at FW Brewer; Game 2: 6 p.m. Friday at FW Brewer; Game 3 (if needed): follows Game 2
Records: Moody 17-5; Bells 24-2
Notes: Moody will try to author a new chapter in the school history books this week. If the Lady Bearcats can advance past a rugged Bells team, they’ll reach the first regional final in the program’s history.
Call a locksmith, because Moody has been locked in at the plate in the playoffs. The Lady Bearcats are averaging 10 runs per game and have yet to drop a game in the postseason.
ROBINSON vs. SALADO
What: Class 4A regional quarterfinal
When/Where: Game 1: 7 p.m. Thursday at UMHB; Game 2: 7 p.m. Friday at UMHB; Game 3 (if needed): TBD
Records: Robinson 26-2; Salado 18-11-1
Notes: This offers a rematch of last year’s 4A state semifinal clash, won by the Eagles, 7-1. No doubt Robinson would love to turn the tables this time around.
Much has changed for Salado since the teams’ last playoff meeting. The Eagles have broken in a first-year head coach in Kreece Cooper. The ace pitcher who took the mound in last year’s game, Cody Wolf, has also departed, having moved on to Temple College.
But some stud ducks from that state finalist still remain, led by junior pitcher Drew Dobbins.
As for Robinson, Bryan Kent’s club has scored 11 runs in three of its four playoff games and hasn’t really been challenged yet in the postseason. The Rockets can put loads of pressure on an opposing pitching staff, thanks to sluggers like infielder/pitcher Braxton Ashcraft, a Baylor commit, and Mason Cooper.
CHINA SPRING vs. LIBERTY HILL
What: Class 4A regional quarterfinal
When/Where: Game 1: 7 p.m. Friday at Liberty Hill; Game 2: 1 p.m. Saturday at China Spring; Game 3 (if needed): follows Game 2
Records: China Spring 20-8-1; Liberty Hill 26-3
Notes: Tenth-ranked Liberty Hill should provide a stiff challenge. The Panthers won 18 straight games before dropping the middle contest in the area round against Madisonville, but they quickly recovered for an 8-0 win in the series finale.
But the plucky Cougars are plenty capable of making it a knock-down, drag-out catfight with the Panthers. China Spring can draw from the experience of close games against quality opponents like Robinson, Salado and Corsicana.
Senior third baseman Brett Cain swings a mighty club, but the Cougars have tough outs throughout their batting order.
GROESBECK vs. MAYPEARL
What: Class 3A regional quarterfinal
When/Where: Game 1: 6 p.m. Thursday at Whitney; Game 2: 7:30 p.m. Friday at Whitney; Game 3 (if needed): 1 p.m. Saturday at Whitney
Records: Groesbeck 24-6; Maypearl 17-8-1
Notes: Groesbeck has put together a charmed season. The Goats are currently ranked eighth in the state in Class 3A, and their belts have some noticeable notches – wins over Crawford, West and Clifton among them.
The Goats socked Leon, 18-1, in the opener of their three-game area-round series last weekend, only to see the Cougars rally for a 3-2 win in the second game. But Groesbeck didn’t buckle, pulling out a thrilling 2-1 nine-inning win in the rubber match, with senior Bradley Wilson providing the walk-off winning single.
Groesbeck senior Chandler Boyd stands out as one of the top aces in all of Class 3A, a flamethrower who has melted the bat of many an opposing hitter.
Maypearl shouldn’t be intimidated however, as the Panthers tied for the District 17-3A title during the regular season with sixth-ranked Grandview.
MART vs. VALLEY MILLS
What: Class 2A regional quarterfinal
When/Where: Game 1: 7 p.m. Thursday at Waco ISD; Game 2: 5:30 p.m. Friday at Waco ISD; Game 3 (if needed): follows Game 2
Records: Mart 19-2-1; Valley Mills 25-7
Notes: Valley Mills owns a rich baseball tradition, with three past state championships and a faded billboard off Highway 6 honoring the town’s former Major Leaguer Donnie Sadler. Mart, meanwhile, has added luster to its own baseball history over the past couple of seasons.
Shane Keeton’s Eagles are well-stocked on the mound. They’ve recorded seven shutouts on the year, and have allowed just seven runs in five playoff games. Senior pitcher Reid Blackford, an all-district star and Super Centex Victory Bowl participant, is adept at keeping foes off the basepaths and, consequently, his team in the game.
Mart survived a one-game playoff with Crawford last week. The Panthers reached the regional semifinals last year in a breakthrough performance, and want nothing more than to extend their season all the way to state.
Colby Headen certainly gives them a shot to do so. The senior pitcher ranks as one of the top hurlers in Central Texas, and struck out seven in last weekend’s 4-2 win over Crawford.
BOSQUEVILLE vs. RIESEL
What: Class 2A regional quarterfinal
When/Where: Game 1: 7 p.m. Thursday at Waco ISD; Game 2: 6 p.m. Friday at Waco ISD; Game 3 (if needed): follows Game 2
Records: Bosqueville 22-3-1, Riesel 22-5
Notes: This sets up as another dandy of a 2A baseball series.
Riesel has made a habit out of making nice playoff runs in recent seasons. The Indians should be a tough out again, thanks in large part to the massive contributions of senior pitcher/shortstop Brooks Embry. The latest in a line of Embrys to come through Riesel – his older brother Braden and first cousin Jase both starred there – Brooks is putting together a year that may give him family bragging rights. He is hitting .623 with six home runs and 44 RBIs while leading the Indians on the mound with a 6-1 record, 1.37 ERA and 76 strikeouts.
Bosqueville counters with a no less formidable club. The Bulldogs haven’t lost since late March, a stretch of 10 games. Jase Ayala, Cason Bradberry and Timothy Brummett form the heart of a batting order that has scored 10 or more runs 10 times this year, including once in the playoffs.
ABBOTT vs. AVALON
What: Class 1A regional semifinal
When/Where: Game 1: 5 p.m. Friday at Whitney; Game 2: 3 p.m. Saturday at Whitney; Game 3 (if needed): follows Game 2
Records: Abbott 25-2; Avalon 24-3
Notes: District foes duel yet again, this time with even more on the line.
Top-ranked Abbott swept a pair of district matchups with third-ranked Avalon in the regular season, winning by scores of 10-0 and 15-5. Hunter Pope (.494, 41 RBIs) and Matthew Urbanovsky (.443, 31 RBIs) lead a potent Panther attack that has dubbed itself “the Pack,” thanks to its unified approach. Brent Mynar (1.23 ERA) is the team’s mound horse.