Junior pitcher propelling Arlington Martin in postseason

Posted Monday, May. 13, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Turner Larkins was something of a secret weapon last season.

He spent his sophomore season pitching behind a pair of talented seniors in a deep Martin rotation. In that supporting role, Larkins won several key postseason games for a Warriors team that reached the state tournament. He flashed his front-of-the-rotation potential in the process.

There’s nothing under-the-radar about him now. This season, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound junior is an unquestioned ace. He’s mowing down hitters with a powerful fastball, baffling batters with his curve and learning to command his changeup. But despite a 9-0 record and a regular-season earned-run average under 1.00, Larkins is finding out how hard it is to be an ace.

“I think it’s actually gotten harder for him,” coach Curt Culbertson said. “When you’re the spotlight guy, it comes with a lot more expectations, a lot more pressure. When you’re that No. 3 guy who comes in following the seniors, it’s different. You kind of slide under the radar.”

Martin downed Lubbock Coronado in two games over the weekend to advance to the third round of the playoffs and is 4-0 so far in the postseason. But Larkins knows the playoff victories haven’t come easy.

He started against Keller in the second game of the bi-district round. Though he helped lead the Warriors to a 5-3 series-clinching win, he lacked his usual command, surrendering five walks and giving up seven hits.

“I’m glad we gutted it out,” Larkins said. “I wanted to do better than I did. In the end, all that matters is, ‘Get the win.’ We’ve just got to keep going.”

Culbertson saw encouraging signs amid the struggles. Larkins pitched a complete game and found his groove in the late innings. Most importantly, he kept his composure in the face of adversity.

“Actually, I’m glad he had to deal with it,” Culbertson said. “He hasn’t had to deal with much negative stuff up to this point. That was a learning experience where he had to regroup.”

Junior Landon Sackett said the team follows Larkins’ lead when it comes to mental toughness. Sackett, an infielder, is on his first season on varsity. Larkins is one of just five Warriors with playoff experience, meaning he’s been through the highs and lows of the postseason.

“He’s pretty consistent with his stuff,” Sackett said. “And last time he didn’t have all his stuff and still managed to get through.”

When Larkins has his stuff, he’s a load for high school hitters to handle. In the regular season, Larkins, who throws in the low 90s, struck out 66 batters in 44 innings. When he is fanning foes, Sackett said, it’s pretty easy to back him up in the field.

“They strike out more than they hit into outs,” Sackett said. “But when they do hit it, we have a pretty good defense behind him to protect him and get them out.”

Larkins knows that Martin’s state title hopes hinge in part on how he performs on the mound. He wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I enjoy it,” he said. “I like having a little bit of pressure.”

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