Second ace propels Warriors into state championship

Posted Monday, Jun. 03, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Daniel Lingua set the tone on the mound, then helped bring things to a close with his bat.

The junior pitcher, who gives Martin two ace-quality pitchers, helped the Warriors sweep past Southlake Carroll in the 5A Region I final. The victory against the Dragons sent Martin to state for the second consecutive season.

Senior catcher Matt Waller said Lingua, who is 12-0 on the season, baffled the Dragons the way he has opponents all season: by sticking to his game plan. Lingua, a first-year varsity player, pitched a complete game against Carroll in Game 1, giving up only one run in a 2-1 Martin victory.

“He goes out there and pitches his game,” Waller said. “He knows if he pitches his game, it’s going to be good enough to win. Attack the strike zone, get ahead early, throw strikes and work in his breaking stuff. It’s worked.”

Against Carroll, Lingua also helped Martin at the plate. In the series-clinching Game 2 victory, the Warriors trailed 1-0 heading into the bottom of the sixth. Waller reached base on a single and then scored on a sacrifice fly by Lingua to tie the game at 1. Lingua’s RBI ignited a four-run rally and set up No. 1 pitcher Turner Larkins up to finish off Carroll in the seventh inning. Like Lingua, Larkins is also undefeated on the season.

“We’ve had some guys step up huge,” Waller said. “Our pitcher Lingua stepped up for us. He hasn’t lost a game all year. That’s what you get with a program like this. He steps in and we reload. It’s never rebuild. It’s reload.”

The previous week against Hurst L.D. Bell, Lingua opened the series with a two-hit, complete-game shutout, striking out nine Blue Raiders in the process. Martin’s bats staked Lingua to an early lead, which the junior said helped calm his nerves.

“I like pitching with the lead, so it helped me be more relaxed on the mound,” Lingua said. “I knew I had to go out there and throw strikes, and the defense made some plays behind me. I just think the fundamentals and doing all my mechanics right and everything will just follow through. Just relax and take a lot of deep breaths on the mound, and try not to overdo it and just stay within myself.”

Lingua has managed to keep his cool throughout the season, even as the stage gets bigger this deep into the playoffs.

“Game 1 the previous week, Lingua wins it,” Waller said. “We come out and get three runs early and he’s relaxed. We’re playing in a big stadium, we’ve got a good crowd. L.D. Bell’s got a good team. We come out early and score three runs. He comes out relaxed. He goes up three up, three down. I think he only had one inning where he struggled. He pitched a fantastic game. He set the tone on the whole series.”

Last year, Martin lost in the semifinal game at the state tournament. Waller, who is one of only five players returning from the 2012 squad, appreciates that first-year phenoms like Lingua have helped the Warriors once again reach their potential. And this time, maybe things will end with a state title.

“I just feel like we’re reloaded and we’re ready to go,” Waller said.

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