Dragons save the drama for San Angelo Central

Posted Monday, May. 13, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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It doesn’t matter how a team collects its wins. It just matters that it ends up on the left side of the scoreline. Carroll relished the drama of its Class 5A Region I area sweep of San Angelo Central this past weekend at Concordia University in Austin.

Down to their last strike in Game 1 on Friday, the Dragons used Chris Altimont’s three-run home run to turn a 4-3 deficit into a 6-4 win.

In Game 2 last Saturday, Joe Heineman’s walk-off double in the bottom of the seventh pulled out a 2-1 victory. The Dragons (30-4) advanced to the Region I quarterfinals, where they will meet Midland in Abilene at Hardin-Simmons University.

Game 1 will be 6:30 p.m. Friday, with Game 2 at 10:30 a.m. Saturday and, if necessary, a Game 3 after that.

This could be a great series. Carroll came into last weekend ranked No. 4 in the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Class 5A poll. Midland (29-7) was No. 8.

Still, they needed some heroics to get this far. “I had a lot of thoughts going through my mind,” coach Larry Hughes said about Game 1 against Central.

Carroll began the rally when Drew Brown reached on a one-out error. Connor Combs reached on a fielder’s choice when Central couldn’t turn a game-ending doubleplay.

Kenny Hill then walked after taking a close 2-2 pitch that went his way. So with runners at first and second, Altimont stroked the first pitch he saw to give the Dragons the lead. He has a team-leading 37 RBIs. Starter Tyler Alexander pitched a 1-2-3 seventh to close it out.

Hughes has liked the combination of Hill batting fourth and Altimont batting fifth. He’s had that set up since the middle of the District 4-5A season.

“Chris has the best bat speed on our team,” Hughes said. “He’s really capable but he has been streaky. He got off to a real slow start and his average suffered through the first 20 or so at bats. But it’s slowly crept up. Since he’s been behind Kenny, he always has an RBI opportunity. Kenny’s always on base.”

As expected, Hughes would not disclose (find a playoff coach who will!) how he will line up his starting pitching.

“There’s really no way to know ahead of time how the other coach is going to use his starters,” Hughes said. “Sometimes, you put two pitchers on alert. If we get the lineups early enough [at the ballpark], then you can let one of them know. But other coaches will wait as long as they can.”

30 is a magic number

Reaching 30 wins is a rarity for any program. So when Carroll reached that mark last weekend, it was significant.

It’s only the second time in Hughes’ 17 seasons that he’s guided his program to that win total. The other time was in 2002 when the Dragons won the Class 4A state championship. That team didn’t reach 30 wins until it won the state semifinal and finished 31-10.

Other Carroll teams have come close. The 2005, 2007 and 2011 teams each collected 28 wins before bowing out in the regional quarterfinal rounds.

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