Tag: Baseball

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Senior-heavy Brady baseball team was poised to make history

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

When Brady graduates Shay Easterwood and Rocky Bernal returned to their alma mater three years ago — the former as the head football coach and athletic director and the latter as the head baseball coach — both knew the sophomore class they were inheriting was destined for big things.

In just their second year on the BHS campus, that group formed the nucleus for virtually every boys program, giving both coaches a promising future to look forward to.

This fall, Easterwood got to see that potential realized as his senior-heavy squad went 4-1 through district to make its first playoff appearance since 2016. Unfortunately for Bernal, he never got that same opportunity in the spring.

After getting off to a 9-2 start, the Bulldogs were stopped in their tracks by the COVID-19 pandemic. And when the University Interscholastic League’s spring sport suspension became a full-on cancellation, Bernal and his players were left to imagine what the rest of the season might have held.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: COVID-19 was the last of Zant’s setbacks in 2019-2020  

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Photos by Chester Reynolds 

The cancellation of high school sports because of the COVID-19 pandemic was the last of three setbacks Hico senior Karson Zant faced during the 2019-2020 school year.

Zant rehabilitated through a football knee injury last fall and a baseball shoulder injury early this spring. But after returning to good health for Hico’s first two district baseball games, Zant ran into an obstacle he couldn’t rehab. On March 13, the COVID-19 pandemic initially suspended and eventually canceled all spring sports, including baseball.

“I thought for sure we were coming back when they first stopped everything,” said Zant, who continued to work out for baseball on his own. “I saw a quote on Twitter about the layoff that really motivated me. It said something like, ‘There are people who will not take this seriously. But six or seven of your teammates will work hard during the time off and come back and look completely different.’

“That kept me motivated to work harder to be better and help my team.”

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DANIEL YOUNGBLOOD: Region I-3A playoff race huge loss for this baseball junkie

Those who know me well know that I’m a “baseball guy” at heart.

I love football and basketball, but baseball’s my sport. It’s the one I played the longest and the one I follow most diligently now.

As a sportswriter, I enjoy covering all sports, but come springtime, there’s one I look forward to more than any other. And the baseball playoffs, in particular, have always held a special place in my heart.

So I had little trouble empathizing with our area players and coaches about the premature ending of the 2020 season as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. I was almost as heartbroken as they were when the University Interscholastic League pulled the plug on the season just a few weeks in.

There were so many things I was looking forward to watching and never got to see play out. And perhaps nothing climbed higher on that list than a Region I-3A playoff race that was shaping up to be one for the ages.

Continue reading “DANIEL YOUNGBLOOD: Region I-3A playoff race huge loss for this baseball junkie”

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Hamlin baseball keeping positive outlook despite shortened season

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

After watching a young team take a nice step forward last spring, Hamlin baseball coach Ryne Lucas had the 2020 season circled as the year his Pied Pipers would finally break through as a district title contender.

And with HHS sporting a top-10 ranking in Class 1A from txhighschoolbaseball.com at the time of the COVID-19 shutdown, it wasn’t just those within the Hamlin city limits that felt bullish about this year’s Pipers.

Unfortunately, Hamlin’s season was cut short by the global pandemic just six games in. But Lucas saw enough during that 3-3 start to believe that the 2020 campaign — truncated though it may have been — could still go down as a positive turning point for his program.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Young Jim Ned Indians look ahead to brighter future

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

With the way his team was playing at the time of the COVID-19 shutdown, Jim Ned baseball coach Ryan Lewis has every right be disappointed by the the abrupt and premature end to the Indians’ 2020 season.

Holding a 6-2 record with close losses to top-10 teams from Breckenridge (5-4) and Wall (5-3), Jim Ned was well on its way to building on the 20-10 mark and area-round playoff finish it achieved in 2019.

But rather than let that fact push him toward bitterness, Lewis has chosen to take a different — and perhaps surprising — posture. One of gratitude.

With no seniors on this year’s roster, the former Abilene High baseball coach was spared the types of heart-wrenching conversations many of his coaching friends have had to have with their veteran players. And though the Indians will never know just how good they might have been had this season continued uninterrupted, the horizon before them is every bit as bright as the one coronavirus put in the rearview.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Cooper seniors miss out on home game experience, chance at turnaround

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Sitting at 2-9 on March 10 after a 6-1 loss to Wichita Falls High in its district opener, the Cooper baseball team was off to a slower start than it was hoping for when play was halted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

But with the start of the Abilene ISD Tournament — and the Cougars’ first opportunity to play on their newly renovated home field — slated for March 12, there was a shared sense of optimism among coach Cody Salyers and his players.

The Coogs, who have typically finished stronger than they’ve started under Salyers, had all of their biggest games and goals ahead of them. And the chance to become the first CHS team to play its home games under lights and on a turf field had them riding a wave of excitement into the meat of their schedule.

Unfortunately for Salyers’ squad, that chance never came. And thanks to the global pandemic that forced the University Interscholastic League to suspend and later cancel all spring sporting events, it never will for the team’s five seniors.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Experienced Bulldogs had high hopes for district

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Photos by Linda Moody 

Sitting at 7-1-1 when this season was stopped by the COVID-19 outbreak, the Coahoma baseball team’s record was almost identical to the 6-2-1 mark the Bulldogs had posted in nondistrict play the year before.

But first-year head coach Chris Arista and his players were convinced this group was different from the 2019 squad that closed its campaign with a 3-9 run through District 5-3A.

With nine seniors on its 17-player roster, Coahoma was the most experienced team in a league that also featured Clyde, Jim Ned, Anson and Merkel. And as such, the Bulldogs were determined to take a step forward after losing out to Merkel for the fourth playoff spot last spring.

Unfortunately, due to the University Scholastic League’s April 17 decision to cancel all spring sports, they never got that opportunity. And while Arista firmly believes his team was destined for success, he’ll never quite know just how things might have played out under different circumstances.   

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Bearcats never got to enjoy fruits of tough pre-district schedule

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Photos by Madisyn Stone

Judging solely by its record, it would be easy to underestimate the potential the De Leon baseball team possessed in 2020.

Sitting at 3-5 when the COVID-19 outbreak stopped their season in its tracks, the Bearcats hardly had the type of win-loss mark you’d expect from a two-time defending district champion that was gearing up for a run at its third in a row.

But records can be deceiving, and that was certainly the case for De Leon, which had played six of its first eight games against larger competition in preparation for its District 6-2A schedule. With pre-district matchups against Class 4A playoff teams from China Spring and Glen Rose, as well as Class 3A No. 1 Brock, the Bearcats were put through a ringer that first-year head coach Ricky Barrett was certain would pay off in time.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Sans seniors, No. 1 Brock baseball was still state threat

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

During a time when most coaches throughout the area, state and country are having to wish premature farewells to the seniors on their rosters, Brock’s Hart Hering is thankful to have dodged that most painful of bullets.

The only senior slated to return for the Eagles’ 2020 baseball team, pitcher/utility man Caleb Satterfield, transferred to Pecos for the spring, leaving Hering with a squad full of juniors, sophomores and freshmen.

But if you think that made it any easier to step away from the 8-1-1 start that had garnered Brock the No. 1 ranking in Class 3A from Txhighschoolbaseball.com, you would be mistaken. Ever the competitor, Hering was looking forward to putting his young bunch up against senior-led state hopefuls from Bushland (No. 2), Breckenridge (No. 3) and Wall (No. 7), and he shared those teams’ pain when the University Interscholastic League announced it would be canceling all spring sports in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Loaded Ira Bulldogs felt this was their year

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

When you’ve been in coaching as long as Toby Goodwin has, you know what an elite team looks like. 

So when the Ira coach says this year’s Bulldogs had a baseball state tournament appearance in their sights, he’s not just blowing smoke.

Unfortunately, neither he, his players or the Ira community will ever get a chance to find out just how good this year’s squad was. And instead of being remembered as the group that finally broke through for an Ira program that has been knocking at the door for years, the 2020 Bulldogs will be the one that (only) COVID-19 took down.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Bartley’s hopes for Buckaroos dashed with final announcement

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Throughout the statewide COVID-19 interscholastic lockdown, Breckenridge baseball coach Kevin Bartley quietly waited and tried to maintain a positive frame of mind. 

It was important for him to do so, in order for him to convince his players to do the exact same thing. 

Then the other shoe dropped. 

With Friday’s announcement by the University Interscholastic League that all spring sports seasons have been cancelled due to the pandemic, Bartley was faced with the fact that what may have been the best Breckenridge baseball team in 30 years would never have the chance to prove it. 

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Anson sophomore Miller was to spearhead young, improving Tiger squad

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15 or until the UIL rules that high school athletics statewide may resume. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Photos courtesy of Daril Gonzales, Anson Tigers Sports Pics

Anson’s Trevor Miller is a sophomore so the suspension of UIL spring sports because of the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t interrupted his final high school season. But baseball is Miller’s only sport so the timing of the stoppage cut just as deep.

“I just play baseball so it’s disappointing. It’s good to have my brother to practice with,” Miller said of his freshman brother, Nick. “He and I throw to each other and take swings. We have a batting cage at home so we can hit in the cage.

“We’re doing all we can to stay in shape and be ready in the hope that we can get back to playing.”

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Co-aces West, Neve had Albany poised for state tournament return

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15 or until the UIL rules that high school athletics statewide may resume. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

After leading the Albany baseball program to its second state tournament appearance in a three-year span last season, Lions coach David Fairchild didn’t have to squint too hard to envision a similar run this spring.

The 27-year coaching veteran had graduated just three seniors from last year’s 23-8 squad and was returning a pair of pitching aces in senior Ben West and junior Cade Neve.

Those realities — and the 7-0 start to which they heavily contributed — have only made things more difficult for Fairchild and his Lions since their season was halted in its tracks by the COVID-19 outbreak and the University Interscholastic League’s related decision to suspend all sanctioned activities in mid March.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Wall baseball’s title defense put on hold

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15 or until the UIL rules that high school athletics statewide may resume. If you have a suggested story for the “What might have been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Coming off its first state championship in program history, the Wall baseball team entered this season eager to defend its title.

With eight key seniors graduating off that 39-1 squad, a repeat run through the Class 3A bracket would not be easy, but the Hawks returned a pair of all-state pitchers in Caleb Heuertz and Luke Young and viewed this as more of a reloading job than a rebuild.

Sitting at 9-3-1 on March 12 with the start of District 4-3A play on the horizon, everything was going according to plan for coach Jason Schniers and his players — until, that is, the COVID-19 outbreak and University Interscholastic League’s subsequent shutdown intervened.

In a matter of days, the Hawks went from gearing up for the district season and another strong playoff push to wondering if they’d get to take the field again at all in 2020. And three weeks later, with school suspended indefinitely and the players and coaches separated, little has changed to ease their uncertainty.

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EVAN REN: Big Country Preps Top 10 Stories for 2019

It’s never easy picking the top 10 stories of the year for the Big Country Preps coverage area. 

Stretching from Forsan in the west to Brock in the east and from San Saba in the south to Munday in the north, there are literally thousands of athletes producing countless stories to choose from. 

Pairing all of that down to just 10 examples forces one to leave out several notable options on a yearly basis. The upside of all this is that the area is never short on quality stories to reflect on. 

So as we say goodbye to the year 2019, we salute those local athletes and coaches who produced yet another memorable year for the entire area. 

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the top stories from last year, in descending order:

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GAME STORY: Albany’s postseason run ends with 4-1 loss to Big Sandy

ROUND ROCK — It took a Division I-caliber pitcher throwing for the defending state champions to finally bring Albany’s season to a close in the Class 2A state semifinals on Wednesday at Dell Diamond. 

Texas Tech-bound Brandon Hendrix worked six solid innings with 12 strikeouts, while Broch Holmes and Graden Emmons were both 2 for 3 with an RBI triple to lead Big Sandy to a 4-1 win over Albany. 

With the game remaining scoreless through 4½ innings, Big Sandy struck for three runs on three hits, including the triples by Holmes and Emmons, to give the Wildcats the lead for good. Big Sandy (35-4) now advances to Thursday’s state title game, where it will to face Linden-Kildare, a 5-0 winner over Valley Mills in Wednesday’s other semifinal. 

The 2A title game is set for noon at Dell Diamond. 

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EVAN REN: Albany to pull out all the stops against state champs in Round Rock

Sooner or later, the road to a state championship was going to lead through Big Sandy anyway. So the Albany Lions (23-7) may as well face the top-ranked Wildcats (34-4) in the state semifinals.

Why waste time? 

The Lions will square off with the defending state champs at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Round Rock’s Dell Diamond. The winner advances to face either Valley Mills (28-6) or Linden-Kildare (20-9) for the state title at noon on Thursday. 

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FEATURE: Albany’s Hill grateful for 11th-hour opportunity, lessons learned from it

ALBANY — It wasn’t until the cusp of his graduation that Albany senior Ryan Hill was finally able to do what he had worked toward for months — play on the 2019 AHS baseball team. 

Hill, a multi-sport standout who will be playing football at Hardin-Simmons University this fall, virtually shredded his right knee while playing basketball for the Lions in January — ending his high school hoops career in a split second.

Whether he could make it back in time for baseball depended on two things: First, an unparalleled response to rehab work. And second, a deep playoff run by Albany that could buy him just enough time to contribute something — anything — on the diamond. 

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FEATURE: Wall’s Seider switches to catcher and quickly becomes one of area’s best

Many baseball coaches will tell you it’s difficult to build a championship team around a poor backstop. 

Stolen bases, passed balls, poor pitch management and lack of infield leadership are just a few of the problems that can arise with a sub-par player behind the plate. 

The Wall Hawks, courtesy of senior Tanner Seider, have none of the aforementioned issues.

In fact, they’re well ahead of the learning curve. 

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GAME STORY: Wall closes out Breckenridge 11-1 (two videos and box score included)

One club saw a storied season pushed to the next round. The other saw its greatest season ever finally come to a close. 

There was never going to be a subtle finish for either Wall or Breckenridge in their Region I-3A semifinal series, which played itself out with Wall’s two-game sweep of the Buckaroos. 

The Hawks, who took Game 1 by a 5-4 margin Friday afternoon, closed the series with an 11-1 win Saturday at Abilene Christian University’s Crutcher Scott Field, ending the deepest playoff run in Breckenridge baseball history. 

Luke Young worked a solid five innings and Colton Diebitsch was 3 for 3 with three RBIs from the No. 9 spot to lead Wall (35-0), which will meet Brock (30-5-1) in the Region I-3A championship series next week. 

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GAME STORY: Wall capitalizes on Breck mistakes to escape with 5-4 win in Game 1 (w/ box score, two videos)

When facing a top-ranked unbeaten opponent in a regional semifinal game, the need to hold mistakes to a minimum is axiomatic. 

The fact that Breckenridge gave No. 1 Wall three unearned runs behind five errors and still nearly pulled off an upset in a 5-4 Game 1 loss Friday at Abilene Christian University’s Crutcher Scott Field, is the backdrop the two teams will play against in Game 2.

Caleb Heuertz scattered 10 Breckenridge hits in a complete-game win and Charlie Mascorro was 1 for 2 with an RBI and a run scored to lead Wall (34-0), which can close out the series with a win in Game 2, slated for 3:30 p.m. at ACU.  Game 3, if needed, will begin 30 minutes after Game 2.

Jake Jansa scored the eventual game-winner for the Hawks in the top of the seventh on an infield error, bringing the Wall contingent to its feet. 

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GAME STORY: Hawley walks off with 4-3 win over New Deal in Game 1

Sitting at 0 for 2 with a sacrifice bunt through his first three plate appearances, Hawley’s Jaron Reynolds was having a forgettable day at the plate when he stepped into the batter’s box for his final at-bat.

But with his team down to its final out and the winning run standing at second, the junior second baseman needed all of one swing to change that.

After watching from the on-deck circle as Tate Thompson struck out for the second out of the seventh inning, Reynolds picked up his teammate with a bases-loaded double over the New Deal right fielder to score Caleb Comer and Robert Ybarra for the tying and winning runs in a 4-3 walk-off win over the Lions.

The come-from-behind victory gave the Bearcats a one game to none lead in their Region I-2A semifinal series, putting them one win away from a spot in the region championship. 

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FEATURE: Buckaroos approaching series with top-ranked Wall as a special chance

“Great moments are born from great opportunity.” — Herb Brooks 

If the top-ranked Wall baseball team is beatable, nobody has proven it in 2019. 

Area clubs have had 33 opportunities to defeat the Hawks and every one of them have been shot down in flames —more often than not, by lopsided margins. 

That is the challenge currently facing Breckenridge coach Kevin Bartley, whose Buckaroos (32-3) will take on Wall (33-0) in a best-of-three Region I-3A semifinal series, beginning at 1 p.m. Friday at Abilene Christian University. 

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FEATURE: Albany’s run to region semis continues trend of baseball success for Lions

With the run of success the Albany baseball team has had the past five years, it should surprise no one that the Lions are back in the region semifinals.

Coach David Fairchild’s team has advanced to at least the third round of the playoffs every year since 2015, with a trip to the Region I-2A championship game in 2016 and the program’s first state tournament appearance in 2017.

With four players on their roster who played on that state team, the Lions have a small nucleus of upperclassmen who know what that experience is like. And those guys have a whole bunch of teammates who are eager to find out themselves.

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FEATURE: Brock’s Nelson a genuine rarity among high school pitchers

It is an accepted norm that successful high school baseball pitchers require high strikeout counts. 

The reason for that is simple: aluminum bats hitting into high school defenses is a recipe for run production, forcing pitchers to take matters into their own hands. 

There are very few exceptions. Yet the Brock Eagles and the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor have managed to find one in senior BHS southpaw Cooper Nelson.  

Nelson, a soft-throwing change-up specialist with razor-sharp control, has required only 49 strikeouts through 78 innings to post an 8-2 record and a microscopic 0.81 ERA.  

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GAME STORY: Brock hangs on to beat Clyde in decisive Game 2 (w/ two videos and box score)

With Brock handing Clyde a 10-0 drubbing in Game 1 of their Region I-3A quarterfinal series on Thursday, it may have been tempting for those watching to simply write off the Bulldogs in Game 2.

Brock coach Hart Hering knew better. 

With Clyde facing elimination, the Bulldogs nearly forced a Game 3, falling to Brock 8-6 at Abilene Christian University on Saturday.  

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GAME STORY: Buckaroos edge Holliday in Game 1 thriller (w/ box score, two videos and photo gallery)

GRAHAM — An 18-game winning streak came within an eyelash of ending on Thursday, as the Breckenridge Buckaroos rallied from a 3-1 deficit with a five-run fifth in a nail-biting 6-5 Region I-3A quarterfinal win over Holliday. 

Justin Bell drove in Gerardo Palacios  and Aaryn Medina with a two-out single in fifth to lift the Buckaroos (31-2), who can push their winning streak to 20 games and clinch the best-of-three series if they win Game 2 on Friday at 5:30 p.m. at Graham’s Steer Stadium. 

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FEATURE: Albany benefiting from latest West installment

Two of his three older brothers — Gus and Ligon — have helped pitch the Stamford Bulldogs into the state tournament in recent years. 

So it may come as no surprise that 17-year-old Albany junior Ben West has made a splash this season as one of the top small-school pitchers in the Big Country. 

The only difference is, this particular West model will be sporting red, rather than blue, when Albany and Haskell meet in a three-game regional quarterfinal series, beginning at 4 p.m. on Thursday at McMurry. 

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Big Country Preps Player of the Week: Haskell’s Rodriguez goes yard four times to take award

Back in the old days, Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium, home of the Atlanta Braves until the late 1990s, was commonly referred to as “The Launching Pad.”  

I submit to you that since that facility was demoed in 1997, the nickname is now free game and applicable wherever we may choose to use it. 

I choose to apply it to Hermleigh’s beautiful, but not exactly pitcher-friendly softball complex, where our Big Country Preps Player of the Week, Haskell’s Ryanna Rodriguez, put on such a dazzling hitting display. So dazzling that she even eclipsed a no-hitter for our top spot. 

Keep in mind, Rodriguez hadn’t homered all season prior to last week’s area-round series with Winters. But with a strong wind blowing to left-center at The Launching Pad, Rodriguez was transformed into Hank Aaron. 

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GAME STORY: Maidens take Game 1 from Winters (two videos, box score and photo gallery w/34 images included)

HERMLEIGH — With a steady, strong wind blowing out directly to center, the stage was set for offensive fireworks in Wednesday’s Class 2A area round game at Hermleigh High School’s softball field.

Haskell and Winters delivered it in a 17-7 win for the Maidens. 

Ryanna Rodriguez was 4 for 4 with three home runs and seven RBIs and Lauren Alexander was 4 for 5 with two homers, a double and three RBIs to lead Haskell (22-8-1), which can wrap up the best-of-three series with a win in Game 2 at 5 p.m. Friday in Hermleigh. 

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GAME STORY: Clyde takes 5-3A district championship with 5-3 win over Jim Ned

TUSCOLA — The Clyde baseball team clinched its fourth consecutive district championship with a 5-3 win over Jim Ned on Monday night in District 5-3A play.

Riley Rice went 6.2 innings and allowed three runs while scattering four hits. Rice also struck out eight and walked three as he outdueled Jim Ned freshman Tate Yardley.

Yardley went 5.1 innings, giving up four runs on eight hits while striking out four. He walked one and hit four others.

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FEATURE: Youthful Blizzards one of area’s top surprises in 2019

Picture a high school baseball team that has 10 players who are either freshmen or sophomores. 

Add a stat sheet that has only one home run for the entire ball club through 14 games. And for good measure, add the fact that the team’s top pitcher is a freshman. 

Now try to guess what the team’s record would be at this point.  Sub-.500?  Perhaps .500 at best? 

You’d be incorrect with both estimates. 

The team in question is the 2019 Winters Blizzards, who enter today at 10-4 overall (6-2 in District 7-2A), having already posted more wins than they’ve managed over the past two years combined. 

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FEATURE: Clyde pitching trio equips Bulldogs for possible playoff run

CLYDE — While it isn’t impossible for a high school baseball team to reach the state tournament without pitching depth, one would likely need two things in order to achieve it: extraordinary hitting and/or extraordinary luck.

Both avenues are longshots, with hitting serving as compensation and luck helping the pitching-challenged to avoid three-game series via successful coin flips. 

The 2019 Clyde Bulldogs (18-4, 7-1 District 5-3A) have no such concern. And it’s a good thing, coming in a region that features Wall, Brock and Breckenridge — ranked first, third and 15th respectively by the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association. 

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GAME STORY: Laughlin, Clyde stop Anson 5-1

CLYDE — With Clyde’s Payton Laughlin on the hill, the Anson Tigers knew coming into Tuesday’s District 5-3A road game that they would have to take advantage of what few opportunities that came their way. 

Unfortunately for AHS, Laughlin was able to close the door nearly every time it opened, stranding four Tigers in scoring position in a 5-1 Clyde win. 

Tossing a three-hitter with 12 strikeouts, Laughlin (6-1) overcame three errors behind him and three of his own walks to earn the win with his seventh complete game of the year. His ERA dropped to 1.12 in the process. 

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FEATURE: Relaxed, confident, Buckaroos just having fun

Even before they had pulled off a stunning upset of Brock on Friday night, there were whispers that the 2019 Breckenridge baseball team was one of the best the Buckaroos have ever fielded. 

Friday’s 3-0 win over the top-ranked Eagles might confirm it in the long run, though a 19-2-1 start may suffice in the view of some. 

In the meantime, first-year coach Kevin Bartley’s crew is bringing a noticeable level of relaxed confidence to the table in a season where one of their primary goals from the outset was to simply enjoy the game. 

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GAME STORY: Breckenridge stuns Brock behind dazzling effort from Woodward (w/ box score, two videos and photo gallery)

BROCK — For at least three full innings during Friday’s game at top-ranked Brock, Breckenridge starting pitcher Owen Woodward was nervous, his breaking ball was hanging and he wasn’t quite sure if he and the Buckaroos were going to pull off the upset they had in mind. 

But after being staked to 1-0 lead in the third inning, the junior right-hander settled in, his curve developed a nasty snap in the late innings and he finished with a jaw-dropping three-hit shutout in a shocking 3-0 Breckenridge win. 

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FEATURE: Hill embracing role as Cooper Cougars’ ace

Cooper junior Braiden Hill has a lot of physical tools that make him a successful starting pitcher. He’s big, he throws hard and he’s got a good second pitch he can turn to when that fastball’s not going quite where he wants it to.

But it’s Hill’s mentality that has taken him from a solid rotation piece for coach Cody Salyers last season to the unquestioned ace of the Cougar pitching staff this year.

The strong-armed right-hander believes he’s better than every batter he faces, and it’s his goal each at-bat to prove that.

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