Author: Daniel Youngblood

FEATURE: Deep, dominant pitching staff fueling Anson baseball’s run

At the Class 2A level, pitching quality and depth is a luxury not all coaches can boast. So the fact that Anson baseball coach Scotty Nichols has four pitchers he feels confident throwing in any situation and three others who can give him innings when he needs them makes him unique among his peers.

That blessing has not been lost on Nichols, whose staff has posted a 1.61 team ERA and 1.033 WHIP heading into its Region I-2A semifinals series against New Home.

Behind that staff, Anson has gone 25-1-1 this season. And thanks in large part to what its members provide on a game-to-game basis, the Tigers, who missed state by a single game last year, have their sights set on earning their first state tournament appearance 2014. 

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GAME STORY: Elston, Stephenville cage Snyder Tigers in gritty Game 1 win

Thursday’s Region I-4A semifinals series opener between Stephenville and Snyder was evenly played in a lot of ways. In the end, it came down to one simple factor: The Yellow Jackets made the most of their scoring opportunities and the Tigers didn’t.

A glance at the scoreboard at the end of the game would show each team with eight hits and two errors. But Snyder left 12 runners on base, including nine in scoring position, resulting in the biggest and most significant difference in the final linescore — a 6-2 Stephenville advantage in the runs column.

The victory, secured in front of a boisterous crowd at Abilene Christian University’s Crutcher Scott Field, moved the Yellow Jackets (23-10-1) one win away from their second consecutive trip to region finals. But to achieve that, they’ll have to put away a scrappy Tigers squad on Saturday, when the series moves to Hardin-Simmons’ Hunter Field for Game 2 and Game 3, if necessary. 

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GAME RECAP: Wylie drops pitchers’ duel to Aledo in Game 1 of I-5A semifinals series

WEATHERFORD — The Wylie baseball team dropped a hard-fought series opener to Aledo on Thursday, losing 2-1 at Weatherford College to fall behind 1-0 in the Region I-5A semifinal series between the two squads.

The Bulldogs outhit the Bearcats 6-5 and didn’t trail for the first time until the bottom of the sixth, but their inability to score after the first inning off AHS starter Ethan Jaques left them on the wrong end of a scoreboard when the game ended.

Wylie pitchers Trey Gomez and Grayson Bearden combined to limit Aledo to five hits, four walks and the two runs over six strong innings, but they were outdueled by Jaques, who surrendered one unearned run in seven innings to earn the complete-game win.

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GAME STORY: Gutierrez no-hits Hamlin to send Stamford softball back to state

Despite all she’s accomplished during her standout high school career, Stamford ace Citlaly Gutierrez admitted to being nervous heading into Wednesday’s one-game Region I-2A championship matchup with district rival Hamlin.

And playing in front of a packed, standing-room-only crowd at Abilene Christian University’s Poly Wells Field, it showed for an inning.

But after seeing her only two walks of the game result in a pair of unearned runs, the flame-throwing right-hander settled in to dominate Hamlin the rest of the way, collecting 16 strikeouts and no-hitting the Lady Pipers in a 10-2 victory that earned the defending Class 2A champion Lady Bulldogs their second consecutive trip to the state tournament.

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GAME STORY: Wall forces Game 3, but runs out of steam in 2-1 series loss to Bowie

After dropping its series opener against Bowie on Thursday, the Wall baseball team rallied to beat the Jackrabbits 6-3 in Game 2 to force a deciding third game on Saturday. But ultimately, the youthful Hawks ran out of gas in a 12-0 loss in Game 3, seeing their surprising run end in the Region I-3A quarterfinals at 27-8.

Wall, which had just four seniors on this year’s team and relied heavily on a number of freshmen and sophomores, gave itself a chance to advance to next week’s region semifinals with a strong showing in Game 2.

But Bowie’s Cade Thompson was too strong on the mound in Game 3, and the Hawks simply ran out of pitching during an eight-run sixth that broke open what had been a competitive game to that point.

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GAME STORY: Big fifth-inning lifts Brock to another run-rule victory over Holliday in Game 2

The Brock baseball team needed a few more innings to get going in their second game against Holliday than they did in Game 1. But in the end, the result was the same. 

Coach Tim Arden’s Eagles used a nine-run fifth inning to break open what was a 1-all ballgame to that point, before tacking on three more runs in the sixth to follow Friday’s 10-0 win with a 13-1 run-rule victory less than 24 hours later.

Saturday’s result completed an impressive sweep at Abilene Christian University’s Crutcher Scott Field and earned Brock a Region I-3A semifinals date with Idalou (22-5) next week.

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GAME STORY: Minton’s slam fuels Hermleigh past Eula, into Class 1A state tournament

Stepping to the plate in the top of the fourth with the bases loaded and her team leading Eula 4-1 in Game 2 of the Region I-2A championship series on Saturday, Hermleigh first baseman Hailey Minton knew she had a chance to do something special.

She’d been struggling in the postseason leading up to that at-bat, but a two-out hit would provide some much-needed cushion for pitcher Summer Smith and the rest of her teammates, who were trying to close out the Lady Pirates and earn their program’s second state tournament appearance.

As it turned out, she delivered in the biggest way possible, smoking a 3-2 pitch well over the fence in right field for a grand slam that put the Lady Cardinals up 8-1 and set the stage for a 13-6 win at Cooper High School’s Cougar Diamond.

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GAME STORY: Strosnider, Brock bats shine in run-rule win over Holliday in opener

Facing off with an outstanding Holliday team in what could be considered the state’s premier region quarterfinals series, the Brock baseball team took the suspense out of Game 1 quickly on Friday, run-ruling HHS 10-0 at Abilene Christian University’s Crutcher Scott Field.

Left-hander Sawyer Strosnider took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, and his lineup provided near constant support off Holliday starter Grant Cox, scoring in four of their six trips to the plate before putting the run rule in effect with two outs in the sixth. 

Brock (30-3) outhit its counterpart 12-1, getting three hits from Strosnider, who also scored a team-high three runs to lead the offense as well. That effort sets up coach Tim Arden’s team with a chance to eliminate Holliday (31-4) when the series resumes at 4:30 p.m. Saturday back at ACU.

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GAME STORY: Wylie battles but falls to Aledo in Game 2, sees season end in I-5A semis

STEPHENVILLE — After being run-ruled by Aledo in Game 1 of its Region I-5A semifinals series on Thursday, the Wylie softball team gave a much more representative effort Friday in Game 2. But it wasn’t enough to extend the series as the Lady Bulldogs saw their season end with a 7-3 loss to the Ladycats at the Tarleton State University softball field.

Wylie trailed just 4-3 after three innings and was still within two runs (5-3) heading into the sixth. But Aledo scored a pair of runs in the top of that inning to double its lead and held on from there for the sweep.

Despite the outcome, which saw the Lady Bulldogs close their season at 23-9, coach Heather Collier was proud of her team and the way it responded to the rough series opener.

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GAME RECAP: Wylie baseball closes out El Paso Del Valle with 11-0 win in Game 2

MONAHANS — The Wylie baseball team wrapped up a Region I-5A quarterfinals sweep over El Paso Del Valle on Friday, following Thursday’s 3-1 victory with an 11-0 win in Game 2 to advance to the fourth round of the Class 5A playoffs. 

Brooks Gay limited the Conquistadors to just one hit in a five-inning shutout in the clincher as the Bulldogs improved to 25-5 on the season.

Wylie will now await the conclusion of the series between Aledo and Burleson Centennial to find out who its opponent will be next week in the I-5A semifinals.

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FEATURE: Scrappy Snyder Tigers at their best when times get tough

When the Snyder baseball team rallied from a tough Game 1 loss to earn a pair of extra-inning wins and advance past a talented Andrews squad last week, some may have been surprised by the Tigers’ resiliency.

SHS coach Shane Stewart was not.

Snyder came from behind one time after another during that doubleheader sweep on Saturday, beating the Mustangs 8-7 and 10-7 — both in eight innings — to earn a Region I-4A quarterfinals date with El Paso Riverside this week. It was a dramatic conclusion to a thrilling series, but one that didn’t shock the Tigers coach, who has seen his team come from behind too many times and win too many close games to be surprised by either anymore.

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GAME STORY: Stephenville downs Iowa Park 8-4 in Game 2 to keep series, season alive

STEPHENVILLE — Facing elimination after dropping Wednesday’s series opener to Iowa Park 7-4, the Stephenville baseball team gave coach Justin Swenson and a rowdy home crowd exactly what they were looking for in Game 2 on Thursday.

Fueled by a three-run first inning and a strong start by senior ace Reece Elston, the Yellow Jackets never trailed in an 8-4 win over the Hawks at the Tarleton State University baseball field.

The win, which improved Stephenville to 21-11-1 on the year, extends the Region I-5A quarterfinals series to a deciding third game, which is slated for 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Justin Northwest.

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GAME STORY: Aledo rides pair of big innings to run-rule win over Wylie in Game 1

STEPHENVILLE — The red-hot Wylie Lady Bulldogs ran into a buzzsaw Thursday in the opener of their Region I-5A semifinal series against Aledo, seeing their nine-game winning streak snapped with a 14-2 run-rule loss to the Ladycats at the Tarleton State University softball field.

Wylie, which had won 12 of its last 13 games coming into Thursday’s matchup, trailed Aledo 8-0 after two innings thanks to a seven-run Ladycats second that all but ended the competitive phase of the game.

AHS outhit the Lady Bulldogs 14-3, pounding out seven extra-base hits, including home runs by Ana Flores and Madysen Boutwell to bookend the scoring in its big second inning.

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GAME STORY: Coleman rallies for pair of wins over Forsan, sweeps way into I-2A quarters

After having the opener of its area-round series with Forsan postponed by inclement weather on Friday, the Coleman baseball team showed up to Hardin-Simmons University’s Hunter Field ready to compete on Saturday. 

Despite trailing at different stages of both games, the Bluecats swept the Buffaloes, following an 8-5 win in nine innings with a 13-8 victory in Saturday’s late game to win the best-of-three area-round series and earn a date in the Region I-2A quarterfinals with Albany.

After extending Game 1 with a run in the seventh inning and limiting Forsan to a single run in a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the eighth, Coleman used a three-run ninth to put the Buffaloes on the brink of elimination. And after absorbing a two-run Forsan first and trailing 4-3 heading into the home half of the third in Game 2, the Bluecats scored 10 of the final 14 runs to survive and advance.

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GAME STORY: Brock outlasts Coahoma to sweep weather-delayed area-round series

The Brock baseball team overcame a long weather delay and a scrappy Coahoma team to advance to the Region I-3A quarterfinals on Friday, sweeping the Bulldogs 3-0 and 12-2 at Abilene High’s Blackburn Field.

Due to a thunderstorm that swept through Abilene in the fifth inning of Game 1, the Eagles didn’t finish their 4:30 series opener until after 9:30, which pushed the end of Game 2 past midnight. 

But Brock got a pair of strong pitching performances and found its offense in the late game to put away Coahoma and earn a third-round playoff matchup with the winner of Jim Ned and Holliday next week.

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GAME RECAP: Wylie headed back to I-5A semifinals after edging Randall in Game 2

WOODROW — The Wylie softball team closed out Canyon Randall with its second one-run victory in as many days, edging the Lady Raiders 2-1 on Friday at Lubbock Cooper to sweep the best-of-three Region I-5A quarterfinals series.

Rylee Moore, who pitched the seventh to earn the save in Game 1 on Thursday, went the whole way in the circle in the clincher, limiting Randall to just one run on four hits  and two walks while striking out nine.

The junior pitcher got all the support she needed in the first inning, when the Lady Bulldogs answered a one-run top of the first with two in the bottom of the frame to account for the only lead change in the game.

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GAME STORY: Anson scores pair of run-rule wins over Christoval, punches ticket to I-2A quarterfinals

The Anson Tigers became the first area baseball team to punch their ticket to the third round of the playoffs on Thursday, earning a pair of run-rule wins over Christoval to sweep their Region I-2A area-round series with the Cougars.

Fueled by a pair of outstanding pitching efforts, coach Scotty Nichols team followed a 13-0 win in Game 1 with a 10-0 victory in Game 2 to make quick work of Christoval at Abilene High’s Blackburn Field.

The Tigers (24-1-1) will now await the result of this weekend’s series between Hamilton (20-7) and Colorado City (8-11) to see who they will play in the Region I-2A quarterfinals next week.

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GAME STORY: Sophomore ace Pepper, Wall Hawks gut out 4-3 over Jacksboro in Game 1

The Wall baseball team rallied from an early 2-1 deficit to defeat Jacksboro 4-3 on Thursday at Abilene Cooper, grabbing a quick 1-0 advantage in its best-of-three Region I-3A area-round series against the Tigers.

The Hawks managed just seven hits — six of those singles — and stranded seven base runners, but coach Jason Schniers’ squad got a strong enough outing from sophomore ace Nathan Pepper to overcome a sluggish offensive performance against the Jacksboro pitching duo of Kyler Swan and Lando Belcher.

The Game 1 victory puts Wall in position to close out the series Friday, when it resumes with Game 2 at 5 p.m. at Cooper.

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GAME STORY: Albany’s Chapman comes through on mound, at plate in walk-off win over Eldorado

Junior standout Cole Chapman did it all for the Albany Lions on Thursday.

In addition to delivering a complete-game gem on the mound, the lanky right-hander also came through with the game-winning hit with two outs in the seventh inning to fuel AHS to a 3-2 walk-off win over Eldorado in Game 1 of a Region I-2A area-round series at Abilene Christian University’s Crutcher Scott Field.

Thanks to Chapman’s heroics, the Lions improved to 16-4 on the year and will need just one win when the best-of-three series resumes Saturday in San Angelo.

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GAME RECAP: Reed’s seventh-inning homer lifts Wylie softball to Game 1 win over Randall

WOODROW — The Wylie Lady Bulldogs continued their torrid run, opening a best-of-three Region I-5A quarterfinal series against Canyon Randall with a dramatic 6-5 win on Thursday at Lubbock Cooper to improve to 4-0 in the playoffs with their 11th win in their last 12 games.

Leading 4-0 after three innings and 5-1 with 5½ frames in the book, Wylie saw its lead erased when Randall pushed four runs across in the bottom of the sixth.

But sophomore Mycala Reed launched a solo home run in the seventh — the Lady Bulldogs’ third long ball of the game — for what proved to be the game-winning run. 

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FEATURE: State-bound Coahoma senior Ott a wheelchair track pioneer, success story

Four years ago, at the urging of superintendent Brad Cox, Coahoma’s Vance Ott joined the Bulldog track team on a lark.

Few could have predicted — or even dreamt — at the time that that would serve as the first chapter of one the greatest success stories in Big Country track and field history.

Ott, who would become the area’s first wheelchair division state qualifier that year as a freshman, became the Big Country’s first state medalist and champion last spring as a junior. Now preparing to compete in his final state meet on Friday, the senior has a collegiate career to look forward to at the University of Arizona and a dream to one day represent Team USA in the Paralympic Games.

That’s quite a rise for for a young man whose original high school plans didn’t include track at all.

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FEATURE: Young Wall baseball team establishing itself as contender in Region I-3A

During his 14 years with the Wall baseball program — the last 13 of those as the Hawks head coach — Jason Schniers has seen some excellent teams.

In addition to the 2019 squad, which won the program’s first state title, and the 2017 bunch that came within a game of earning that distinction, the Wall coach has had numerous other clubs play three or four rounds into the Region I-3A playoffs.

So when Schniers says a team can play, it can play.

That’s good news for fans of this year’s squad, which enters this week’s area-round series against Jacksboro at 24-6. With seven sophomores and three freshmen on their 17-player roster, the 2022 Hawks are considerably younger than Wall’s best teams of the past, but their potential, Schniers said, may be every bit as high. 

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GAME STORY: Anson rides fast start to 8-1 win over Miles, advances to area round

Coming off a hard-fought 5-3 win over Miles in Game 1 of their Region I-2A bi-district series against the Bulldogs, the Anson Tigers eliminated the drama early in Game 2 on Saturday, scoring four first-inning runs on their way to an 8-1 series-clinching win at Abilene Cooper.

Coach Scotty Nichols’ squad led 7-0 by the end of the third inning and 8-0 before Miles finally scored in the sixth to avoid the shutout.

The victory, which improved the Tigers to 22-1-1, earned AHS an area-round date with Christoval next week.

Continue reading “GAME STORY: Anson rides fast start to 8-1 win over Miles, advances to area round”

GAME STORY: Read spins gem, Albany bats explode late in series-clinching rout of Winters

Behind a gem of a start by Cole Read and a late explosion at the plate, the Albany baseball team rolled to a 12-0 win over Winters in Game 2 of its Region I-2A bi-district series, sweeping the best-of-three affair to advance to the area round next week.

Leading the Blizzards 3-0 after four innings Saturday at the Abilene Cooper baseball field, the Lions put up three runs in the fifth and six in the sixth to turn a tight game into a run-rule victory.

Read pitched into the sixth, before handing the ball to reliever Cooper Fairchild, who recorded the final outs to complete the combined shutout. The Lions starter allowed just five hits and three walks while striking out five to earn the win.

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GAME STORY: Coleman rides big first inning to 7-5 win over Stamford in Game 1

A big first inning gave the Coleman baseball team a lead it would never relinquish Friday in Game 1 of its Region I-2A bi-district series against Stamford. But that didn’t mean things were easy for the Bluecats in their 7-5 win over the Bulldogs at Abilene High’s Blackburn Field.

Leading 6-1 after three innings, CHS nearly saw its lead erased in the bottom of the sixth. But with runners on second and third and no outs, Stamford could score only one of those runs, keeping the Bluecat lead at one heading into the final inning.

Coleman then plated an insurance run in its half of the seventh and reliever Ryland Gentry struck out the side in the bottom to save the victory for starter Jorge Salas.

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GAME STORY: Chapman, two big innings fuel Albany past Winters in Game 1

Junior ace Cole Chapman gave Albany a strong start on the mound and his offense did the rest as the Lions opened their Region I-2A bi-district series against Winters with a 11-4 win at Abilene Cooper. 

AHS scored two in the first and four in the third to take an early 6-0 lead, before extinguishing a potential Winters rally with a four-run sixth inning to put the game away.

The victory improved the Lions to 14-4 on the year and put coach David Fairchild’s team one win away from a series victory and a trip to the area round.

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FEATURE: Early pinning hopes of a deep playoff run on talented pitching staff

In baseball, there’s no substitute for quality pitching.

If you have it, you can win any game you play. If you don’t, your team’s ceiling drops precipitously.

The Early baseball team falls firmly into the first camp. And it’s for that reason, the Longhorns (18-4) are entering the playoffs with a sky-high confidence level and matching expectations.

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GAME STORY: Wall crushes Stanton 15-2, 16-0 to advance to area round

The Wall baseball team kicked off its playoff run with a pair of dominant efforts Thursday, run-ruling Stanton 15-2 and 16-0 at Abilene Christian University’s Crutcher Scott Field to sweep the Buffaloes in a Region I-3A bi-district series.

The Hawks, who were coming off a 10-3 win over Jim Ned to clinch the No. 1 seed out of District 6-3A on Monday, were dominant in all facets against Stanton, outhitting the Buffs 25-2 over the two games.

The victory improved WHS to 23-6 on the year and earned the Hawks an area-round date next week with the winner of this weekend’s bi-district series between Jacksboro and Comanche.

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FEATURE: Lone senior Whitehead, large junior class have Wylie in midst of another strong season

When it comes to senior leadership, the 2022 Wylie softball team is measuring in quality, not quantity. 

With just one fourth-year player on this year’s roster — center fielder Ryleigh Whitehead — the Lady Bulldogs aren’t as deep in seasoned voices as many of their past teams have been.

But Whitehead, who was been on varsity since earning a call-up for the playoffs as a freshman in 2019, has proven quite capable as a lead singer. And with eight talented juniors behind her providing near pitch-perfect backup vocals, Wylie’s lone senior is far from a solo act.

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CLASS 4A REGIONAL TRACK ROUNDUP: Big Spring boys, Stephenville girls headline successful I-4A meet for area

The Stephenville girls and Big Spring boys both finished third in their respective team competitions over the weekend at the Region I-4A track meet to headline a strong effort for area teams and athletes.

The Honeybees amassed 94 points to finish behind only team champion Canyon (122) and runner-up Argyle (106) while the Steers finished with 52 points — 10 behind second-place Decatur and 51 behind boys champion Argyle.

In all, Big Country relay teams and athletes accounted for 21 total medals — 10 on the boys side and 11 on the girls side.

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LOCAL TRACK ROUNDUP: Wylie high jumper Maroney statebound after second-place region finish

Wylie sophomore Indiah Maroney punched her ticket to the Class 5A state meet over the weekend in Lubbock, finishing second in the high jump at the Region I-5A meet to earn a trip to the Austin in two weeks.

Maroney, the only local athlete to earn a spot at state, cleared a personal-best of 5-foot-5 to match region champion Anaya Potter of Justin Northwest, but she took a silver medal on attempts.

The 6-foot-2 sophomore, who also starts for the Wylie girls basketball team, accounted for eight of the Lady Bulldogs’ nine team points and the bulk of the 14 points earned by Abilene high school athletes at the Region I-5A and I-6A meets.

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REGION I-3A TRACK MEET: Brock, Breck go 1-2 in boys team race, Merkel standout claims four golds

Coming off the first region and state titles in program history in 2021, the Brock boys track team was successful in its first title defense, running away with the team championship at the Region I-3A meet Saturday at Abilene Christian University’s Elmer Gray Stadium.

The Eagles finished with 99 points — 44 more than second-place Breckenridge — to headline a strong performance for athletes throughout the Big Country Preps coverage area on the meet’s second day.

Merkel, meanwhile, had the top finish for the girls, riding a stellar meet from senior Alyssa O’Malley to 52 points and a fifth-place team finish — one spot ahead of the Brock Lady Eagles, who placed sixth with 44 points.

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