Even before Arlington Martin won its Class 5A regional semifinal against Hurst L.D. Bell, the theme for the Region I final had been set.
“Redemption,” Southlake Carroll ace Tyler Alexander said after the Dragons’ regional semifinal win over Flower Mound Marcus.
2012 Class 5A Region I final results
Game 1: Arlington Martin 7, Southlake Carroll 3
Game 2: Southlake Carroll 2, Arlington Martin 0
Game 3: Arlington Martin 5, Southlake Carroll 2
2013 Class 5A Region I Final
at QuikTrip Park
Game 1: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Game 2: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Game 3 (if necessary): 6 p.m. Saturday
UIL state tournament appearances: Carroll (1982, ’83, ’90, ’96, ’02, ’08); Martin (1990, ’93, ’12).
Whether they would say it as candidly as Alexander or not, the Dragons’ chance to take on Martin (34-7) in the regional finals for a second straight year quickly quelled the Marcus postgame celebrations.
“Honestly, before the playoffs even started, we’ve been looking forward to playing Martin because we’ve wanted redemption,” Alexander said. “That taste in our mouth after we lost last year was not good, and we want redemption.”
Alexander’s thoughts flashed back to 2012 and TCU’s Lupton Stadium, where the Warriors took Games 1 and 3 by the scores of 7-3 and 5-2, respectively, to advance to Martin’s third UIL state tournament appearance and first since the Warriors won in 1993.
It was Game 3 that sticks with Alexander and his team, remembering the crushing feeling of watching Kenny Hill, one of Carroll’s best all-around hitters, strike out for the Dragons’ final out of the season.
But it’s also what’s driven Carroll (34-4) through every out of the 2013 season to this point.
While Carroll will face Martin, the same school that ended its 2012 campaign, in a best-of-three series this weekend at Grand Prairie’s QuikTrip Park, this year’s Warriors are vastly different.
After its 2012 state tournament run, Martin graduated 13 seniors. Only five players who saw significant playing time last year have any recollection of last season’s series with Carroll.
Those few know how badly Carroll wants to turn the tables on Martin, but coach Curt Culbertson has made a point to keep his team’s focus on the actual games, hoping it will have a trickle-down effect from the team’s current senior leadership.
“You try to not let [outside pressures] enter into your game, or if you do, use it to focus yourself,” Culbertson said. “It’s such a mental game once you get to this point right here. I think, with the kids we have coming back, they are helping prepare the younger kids for what is fixing to happen.”
Thursday’s opener will be the teams’ first meeting since last year’s series, and while Carroll is unfamiliar with many of the names on Martin’s roster, Alexander knows what to expect.
“They’re Arlington Martin. They’re going to be good,” he said. “They can hit the ball and that’s just a given, but their pitching is definitely pretty impressive.”
But at this point, it’s not the games that Alexander and Carroll are focused on — it’s each pitch.
“Every pitch, we’ll remember what happened last year,” Alexander said.
Special to the Star-Telegram
Carroll pitcher Tyler Alexander said the Dragons are motivated by their loss last year to Martin.
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