It was graduation day for Arlington Martin earlier in the afternoon, but underclassman Turner Larkins took center stage Saturday night at TCU's Lupton Stadium in front of an announced crowd of 2,510.
The sophomore pitcher led the Warriors to a 5-2 victory over Southlake Carroll in the third and deciding game of their Class 5A Region I championship series. Larkins (10-0) struck out 13, walked three and gave up five hits -- all singles -- in a 133-pitch, complete game performance.
"I just went out there and did my job, and the defense did the rest; they are the best," Larkins said. "This is new for me, I've never really experienced something this big. I feel like I had to take on my responsibility, and I think I did that tonight."
Larkins struck out Kenny Hill, Carroll's top hitter, to end the game. An instant later, the whole Martin team rushed the mound in celebration.
"The first thing that came to my mind when I saw [Hill] swing at that pitch was that we're going to state," Martin catcher Collin Lawrence said. "It's the best feeling. Senior year? What a great way to go out."
Lawrence gave Martin (36-5) a 1-0 lead in the second by driving in fellow senior Collin Day, who trucked home from first, on a double to left-center.
Then the ugliest inning of the series happened. The two teams combined for five errors, three by Carroll, in the fourth, after which Martin emerged with a 4-2 lead.
While Larkins went the distance, Carroll (25-13) trotted out four pitchers Saturday night. Starter Ben Leeper (4-2) did not make it out of the third after giving up consecutive doubles to Martin's Josh Watson and Matt Waller.
Sean Thompson came in in the third but didn't survive the error-plagued fourth inning after failing to field a bunt. Austin Tyrone threw 25 pitches but was relieved in the fifth by Tyler Alexander, who finished the game.
Martin is heading back to the state tournament for the first time since winning the title in 1993. The Class 5A state semifinals are scheduled for 4 and 7 p.m. Friday.
"I'm so dadgum proud of these kids for doing what they have done since last May," Martin coach Curt Culbertson said.
Jarret Johnson, 817-390-7760
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