One does not simply walk into Hurst and beat L.D. Bell baseball in the playoffs.
The Blue Raiders, the fourth qualifier from District 6-5A, made that abundantly clear last week by knocking off Flower Mound, the No. 7-ranked Class 5A team in Texas, in three games. Bell is establishing itself as that team you don’t want to face come playoff time.
“I wish I could tell you we have something in a bottle, but I tell you, once you do it once I think it goes a long way toward setting an example for these kids,” Bell baseball coach Paul Gibson said. “It definitely helps, having done it. It kind of sets the bar for the rest of the kids coming in.”
Bell made its deepest postseason run in 2011, when area home run king Hunter Lockwood led the Raiders to the regional finals. Last season, Bell lost three of five heading into the playoffs but came alive once again and made it four rounds deep before falling to Arlington Martin in the regional semifinals.
Despite their recent body of work, not many thought they had a chance of upsetting Flower Mound. Even several of the Raiders seemed a little too disinterested for Gibson’s taste during a practice days before the start of the series.
“This bunch didn’t really seem excited about being here, and there’s only about three of them who really have any postseason experience; they were in the stands watching,” Gibson said. “We were about five minutes into practice and they weren’t even stretching properly, so we stopped them and told them, ‘this isn’t going to get it.’”
Boy, did Bell wake up.
After dropping the first game at Flower Mound, the Blue Raiders returned home Friday and won Game 2. Leadoff hitter Sydney Daley changed the whole series with a three-run homer in the fourth inning en route to a 5-3 victory.
Bell jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the second inning of Saturday’s deciding Game 3 at Quick Trip Park in Grand Prairie on the way to a 10-4 victory.
“We felt good, I mean it wasn’t like there was any pressure on us,” Gibson said. “Nobody expected us to do it, and we had every intention of going over there and finishing the deal.”
Next up for the Raiders is a Class 5A Region I best-of-three area round series against Waco Midway. Game 1 is at 7 p.m. Friday at LaGrave Field. The series moves to Baylor for Game 2 at 1 p.m. Saturday and, if necessary, Game 3 will be 30 minutes after.
Mansfield, Mansfield Legacy and Mansfield Summit all advanced to the second round of the playoffs with big wins last week.
The Mansfield Tigers defeated Killeen Harker Heights in three games and will open a best-of-three Class 5A area-round series against District 6-5A champ Grapevine at 7 p.m. Friday at home.
Legacy, the District 15-4A champ, needed three games to fight off Nacogdoches in the first round, and will play Longview Pine Tree in a best-of-three series, starting 6:30 p.m. Friday at Pine Tree.
Summit knocked off Lindale in three games last week to advance to the Class 4A Region II area round where they will play Hallsville in a best-of-three series, beginning 7:30 p.m. Friday in North Forney.
Joshua baseball became the first boys team at the school to advance out of the first round of the playoffs this school year and just the second group to make the postseason by defeating Fort Worth Arlington Heights in three games last week.
The Owls will make their first appearance in the Class 4A area round of the playoffs since 2008, when they had a first-round bye, at 7:30 p.m. Friday at North Crowley against Trophy Club Nelson.
The Bobcats, who grabbed the fourth playoff spot from District 4-4A, are coming off a sweep of District 6-4A co-champ Saginaw Boswell.
Jarret Johnson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @JohnsonJarret
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