Since losing in the Class 4A state baseball title game a year ago Cleburne has been on a mission to finish the job.
The Yellow Jackets (35-5) have plowed through opponents this postseason, winning all eight games by an average margin of almost seven runs.
Their latest victim was Wolfforth Frenship, the No. 4-ranked 4A team in the state. Cleburne trailed in both games, but produced big seventh innings to sweep the regional semifinal series.
The Yellow Jackets are one more series win away from a return trip to the state tournament in Round Rock. They must first defeat Wichita Falls Rider, a team they knocked out of the playoffs a season ago, in a best-of-three series starting at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Justin Northwest.
Coach Ross Taylor is also one win away from his 500th career victory, but said recently he couldn’t care less about personal milestones right now.
“Everybody else is trying to make a big deal out of it, but for me our goal at the beginning of the year was to go win a state championship,” Taylor said. “That’s what we talk about; we don’t talk about how many wins I have because that’s really kind of insignificant at this point.”
Bearcats still hot
Aledo softball has made it to the UIL state tournament with a 10-0 postseason record.
But the Bearcats (40-3) have been especially effective in the fifth inning, where they’ve scored 25 of their 64 runs in the playoffs.
Junior center fielder Haylee Bowden is batting .552 in the postseason, with 16 extra-base hits and an on-base percentage of .618.
Aledo’s semifinal opponent, Buda Hays, has one loss this postseason and makes its first state tournament appearance.
A final ride?
Southlake Carroll third baseman Kenny Hill knows his high school career is closing but isn’t over just yet.
Hill, who led the football team to a 2011 state title and was the 2012 Associated Press Texas Player of the Year, wants the baseball season to last another two weeks for the Dragons.
Carroll (34-4) faces Arlington Martin (34-7) in a best-of-three series in the Class 5A Region I final beginning Thursday at Quick Trip Park in Grand Prairie.
“I’ve come out and played my hardest every game, knowing it could be the last time I’m playing with my high school friends,” Hill said. “It does cross my mind a lot; it’s crazy thinking about being done with high school and leaving all of these guys. We’re just focused on winning and keeping this run together.”
Arlington Martin baseball is no stranger to deep playoff runs. In fact, the Warriors went to state last season and are on the verge of a return trip to Round Rock.
Yet, only a handful of players with playoff experience returned this year and coach Curt Culbertson wasn’t sure how they would react under the pressure. So far Martin (34-7) has passed with flying colors.
Culbertson pointed out the play of pitchers Daniel Lingua and Turner Larkins, who stepped up and embraced their new roles. Lingua played mostly on the JV last season, and though Larkins played a key role as a starter, he is now the No. 1 pitcher.
“It’s actually been quite a run,” Culbertson said. “We’ve hit the ball when we need to, we’ve played really good defense and you never know how kids are going to react in this type of atmosphere, but I’ve really been proud of this group of kids.”
Correspondent Kevin Casas contributed to this report.
Jarret Johnson, 817-390-7760
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