Arlington Martin seniors pushing for deep baseball playoff run

Posted Monday, May. 06, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Martin senior Tyler Kendrick has played in his share of big games, including last year’s state baseball tournament and tough matchups along the way.

But until Saturday, the senior shortstop had never played in a playoff game at home. Kendrick and company made the most of it, defeating Keller 5-3 to advance to the area round of the 5A playoffs. Martin scratched out a 7-6 victory in eight innings Friday at Keller in the first game of the best-of-three bi-district series.

The playoff debut at home was “more exciting” than a normal postseason game, said Kendrick, who plans to play college baseball next season at BYU.

By taking their opening-round series, the Warriors kicked into high gear the last chance for Kendrick and his fellow seniors to win a state championship.

“I think we all have the expectation of going pretty deep — four or five or six rounds,” he said. “If you get that far, that ends up being state.”

‘Last hurrah’

Senior center fielder Drew Dowdy sees his teammates playing with a similar swagger and seriousness as last year’s squad. That has him hopeful that this team can add another banner to the Warriors’ outfield wall.

“This is definitely the last hurrah, especially for the seniors,” said Dowdy, a University of Texas at Arlington recruit.

The seniors set themselves up for a memorable final stretch by leading the team to a 14-0 run through a deeply talented District 3-5A.

The regular season, though, was far from perfect. Coach Curt Culbertson mentioned in particular two games against Fort Worth Paschal in which Martin appeared to be beaten before rallying late for narrow victories.

Kendrick said it took until the second half of the district season for Martin to stack up runs early in games and cruise to victory instead of counting on a mid- or late-game offensive outburst.

“It would take a long time to get runners going in a game,” he said. “And now we’ve been starting early, and now we have extra innings where we can put runs up.”

To thrive in the postseason, Dowdy said, the Warriors must keep hitting well in pressure situations and must take advantage of opponents’ defensive lapses.

“We’ll definitely have to be a lot more focused,” he said. “There will be a lot more games that turn on a defensive error, but we can’t just go out and expect to put up 12 runs on a team and it be an offensive battle.”

Inexperienced squad

Only five players return from last season’s team, meaning that most of the Warriors are in uncharted territory in the postseason. But seniors Kendrick, Dowdy, outfielder Anthony Lyons and catcher Matt Waller and junior ace Turner Larkins have set an example for how to face playoff pressure.

“Kids that have been through it, their experience is invaluable as long as they focus everybody around them and spread that experience around them and show them the game hasn’t changed,” Culbertson said. “It’s just the name in front of whatever you’re playing: a district game, playoff game. The pressure’s what you put on yourself. The game doesn’t change.”

Kendrick said young players like second baseman Grant Jones, a sophomore, are now playing like veterans. That gives him hope that Martin has the same special qualities as the 2012 team.

“I think we’ve just got to stay focused,” Kendrick said. “We were able to do that all through district, and we just need to maintain that in bi-district, area and whatever’s next.”

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