Max Reynolds will have the best seat in the house for the Class 4A state semifinal between Cleburne and Austin Lake Travis on Thursday.
As the catcher for the Yellow Jackets, Reynolds will be calling pitches for senior right-hander German Hernandez.
Recent area state champs
2001: FW Western Hills (4A)
2002: Southlake Carroll (4A)
2006: Brock (2A)
2011: Kennedale (3A)
So far this postseason, the seat's been perfect. Hernandez is 5-0 with a 0.96 ERA.
"German has all the pitches, all the tools," Reynolds said. "Sitting back there is a blast when any of our guys are on the mound, but we the main thing is that we have a strategy and they stick with it."
Arlington Martin in 5A and Brock in 2A will also represent the area Wednesday through Saturday at the state tournament in Round Rock.
For Cleburne, offensive punch will make Hernandez even more dominant. The Yellow Jackets (29-10) are loaded top to bottom with potential. Three players hit over .330, led by Ticker Nolen, who's hitting. 338.
"They've got to appreciate that they are a really good team or they wouldn't be here," coach Ross Taylor said. "They just need to play their kind of baseball."
It's the latter that frustrated Taylor on Saturday when Cleburne fumbled a chance to sweep Waco Midway.
Pitcher Brach Farmer outlasted hitters for the majority of Game 2, working the corners and getting the ground ball outs he needed. But two throwing errors allowed Midway to force aGame 3.
"I think it said a lot about how we bounced back," Hernandez said. "We got away from things and that's not like us. I hardly ever shake off what Max calls and I have plenty of confidence in him."
At the plate, Cleburne has reached the situational production that defines good teams. But Taylor said pitching depth has been the key ingredient behind the playoff run.
Cash Calahan came on in Game 3 against Midway, mixing breaking balls and off-speed pitches to work both sides of the plate.
A few wild tosses also kept them guessing and although Reynolds wouldn't specifically talk about those, he admitted his battery mates have bought into the right strategy all year.
"I don't know that much about Lake Travis but we'll do the same things we've done all year at the plate," Reynolds said. "When you have pitchers that can throw so many good pitches for strikes, we're going to use them all."
This is Cleburne's first appearance at the state tournament since 2004 and Lake Travis' first appearance overall. Taylor said he's not certain if any of that matters.
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