ARLINGTON — Last season’s run to the Class 5A semifinals ended a 19-year drought between UIL baseball state tournament appearances for Arlington Martin.
Despite losing a stellar senior class, including eight who are playing in college, a new mix of experience and youth has carried the Warriors all the way back with thoughts of finishing the job from 2012. Martin (36-7) gets that opportunity starting with Friday’s noon semifinal game against Fort Bend Dulles (31-7) at Dell Diamond in Round Rock.
“That’s our mindset. We’re going down there to take care of business and coming back,” senior right fielder Anthony Lyons said.
Fellow seniors Drew Dowdy, Tyler Kendrick and Matt Waller, as well as junior Turner Larkins and sophomore Josh Watson, persevered through another playoff grind for that second shot. Waller, a catcher, said it wasn’t easy getting back to state but believes the experience will pay off.
“It’s going to help us tons because we’ve been there,” said Waller, recalling last year’s 6-0 semifinal loss to eventual champ Houston Cypress Ranch. “This year we’re going with a chip on our shoulder, ready to go all the way.”
The Warriors are the only 5A school returning to the tournament from a season ago. In his 24th season as a high school coach, Martin’s Curt Culbertson said it’s hard to prepare for an event like a UIL state tournament unless you’ve been there before.
“You don’t get too many chances at this thing, and we’re going to go at this with a little bit different attitude this year,” said Culbertson, in his ninth year as Martin head coach. “The newness is not there. We know what to expect.”
Several newcomers have stepped in and thrived this season. Daniel Lingua was called up from the JV for the playoffs last year and made the trip to state but didn’t play. Now a junior, Lingua’s the No. 2 pitcher (12-0) and starting third baseman when not on the mound.
“I’m more excited than anything, but I’m just trying to stay relaxed and treat it as another baseball game because that’s all it is,” Lingua said. “You can’t just hype it up as this huge state thing — I know it is and everything — but you have to play baseball, do your thing, do the fundamentals. Because if you don’t do that you’re not going to win.”
Culbertson said this team’s lineup is stronger from top to bottom than last year, and it’s because of the contributions of newcomers such as juniors Landon Sackett and Colton Hoisager. Last Friday as the No. 7 and No. 8 batters, they turned a tie game against Southlake Carroll into a three-run cushion after consecutive RBI hits in the sixth inning.
“Last year we had three or four guys stay hot and they just carried us,” Culbertson said. “This year it’s spread out, and that’s a good thing because all of them have confidence.”
Jarret Johnson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @JohnsonJarret
Special to the Star-Telegram
Arlington Martin coach Curt Culbertson says it’s hard to prepare for the state tournament without state experience.
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