Playoffs never get old for the Dragons

Posted Monday, Apr. 29, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Just because Carroll has a high level of expectations throughout its athletic programs, that doesn’t mean there isn’t the usual unbridled enthusiasm of making the playoffs. The same holds true for its baseball team.

The Dragons (26-4, 13-1 in District 4-5A) have advanced to the postseason for the 15th consecutive season and have won the last three district championships. Carroll last missed the postseason in 1998.

In the final week of the season, coach Larry Hughes used the final district game against Haltom to play all of his seniors. That worked out in a 10-6 win. Against Rockwall on Saturday, he used the game – a 7-3 loss – to set up his pitching staff for the postseason.

Carroll opens the Class 5A Region I bi-district playoffs against Arlington Lamar. Game 1 is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Carroll. Game 2 is 7 p.m. Friday at Lamar. If necessary, a deciding third game is set for 1 p.m. Saturday at Carroll.

“Friday, there wasn’t anything important in the game, but we obviously wanted to win it,” Hughes said. “I got everybody on the roster into the game. Rockwall was just a chance to use some arms ready for the playoffs. Rockwall really did a nice a job. They got four runs off of Ben Leeper in the first inning. Maybe we were a little flat, too.”

But the postseason appearance streak is something to embrace. It’s a combination of having good players come through the program and then having them perform at a high level.

“The expectations are always there because of the success of the other programs,” Hughes said. “Still, you have to make it happen. There have been some times during this streak where we had to win the last game just to get into the playoffs. It’s not as easy as some people think it is.”

Analyzing a luxury

Pitching depth can give a coach plenty of options. Hughes knows he has three solid starters on this this staff led by left-hander Tyler Alexander followed by right-handers Sean Thompson and Leeper.

When it comes to the postseason, lining up the rotation is not a clear cut decision. There are two ideas coaches wrestle with when it comes to handling to an ace. In this case, it’s Alexander. Hughes could open the series Thursday with Alexander. He could also wait to use him in Game 2 Friday.

If a coach uses the ace to start, then he expects a win and parlay the momentum to close out the series in the second game. However, he could gamble and use another starter – Thompson or Leeper – to open the series and use the ace in Game 2 to either finish or force a deciding Game 3.

At this point, Hughes isn’t sure what he will do. He said he and his coaching staff would visit about it early in the week and then decide.

“There’s value in winning Game 1,” Hughes said. “It’s a good problem to have. Any coach can make either scenario sound good. What you need to do is come up with a plan that you think best suits your team.”

Briefly …

Carroll has been advantageous with extra base hits. The Dragon have 10 triples led by Chris Altimont’s four. Altimont is having an interesting season. At last report, he was hitting. 250 but he’s made the most of his 17 hits. He has 11 extra base hits, including six doubles and one home run.

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