Warriors seniors reflect on highs and lows of another state baseball tournament berth

Posted Monday, Jun. 10, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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For the second year in a row, the Martin baseball season ended sooner than players and coaches would have liked. But for the second consecutive season, the Warriors’ season ended after all but three other 5A schools in the entire state.

Martin lost to Fort Bend Dulles 3-0 Friday in a state semifinal game. Dulles would go on to lose to eventual state 5A champion The Woodlands.

For a handful of outgoing seniors, the loss ends an impressive stretch that includes consecutive undefeated district championships and consecutive state tournaments.

“I don’t think people realize how many rounds there are just to get to the state tournament,” said infielder Tyler Kendrick, one of six seniors this year. “For us to do it two years in a row, I think that’s a huge accomplishment for us.”

“Really, it’s such a grind,” coach Curt Culbertson added. “It’s a five-week-long period. The competition around this area is very tough, and just to get to the regional finals around here is really something special.”

“All the pieces were there; we just needed some guys to fill in, and that’s what we got with the kids that came in from JV,” senior outfielder Anthony Lyons said.

As it did in 2012, Martin reached the state tournament. And also like in 2012, it ran into a buzz saw in the opposing team’s ace pitcher.

“That guy was good,” Culbertson said of Dulles starter Dakota Mills. “He was throwing hard, he was hitting every spot ... he never got himself in trouble.”

Mills tossed a two-hit shutout, striking out 11 and walking just one.

“Looking back on those few previous series, the pitchers were just as good, but they didn’t have quite the command of the strike zone this kid had,” Culbertson added. “They got themselves in trouble, and we took advantage of those walks. This guy didn’t walk anybody. He had some really good accuracy with his fastball. So we never really got going.”

The final five

The Warriors began the season with just five returning starters, but those who reached Round Rock last season felt it was a solid foundation.

“We knew that we were looking good,” senior outfielder Drew Dowdy said. “But we honestly didn’t think we were that caliber again until we started playing and realized that our offense had probably improved from last year and our defense was solid, and our pitching was obviously terrific. Our one and two [pitchers] had one loss [between them] on the season.”

Once Martin had completed back-to-back unblemished runs through district play, the confidence was growing that this team could again do something special.

“I think that gave us the attitude that we were definitely good and that we didn’t expect anything less than the state tournament,” Dowdy said.

Culbertson had a similar perspective early in the year.

“We thought we had a lineup that could get us there,” he said. “We weren’t sure we had enough pitching depth to get back to Round Rock.”

And that’s where the varsity newcomers entered the picture.

The new guys

“I think we had all the tools, we just needed guys like Daniel Lingua,” Kendrick said. “He was big this year on the mound and at the plate. He came up with some big hits, and he dominated when he pitched.”

The junior stepped up from playing on the JV squad last season, and his impact was felt throughout the season. He went 13-0 as a starting pitcher and came through with a number of clutch hits.

“We knew about him, but for him to do what he did was a little bit unknown,” Culbertson said. “We didn’t know he’d be able to accomplish that.”

Underclassmen such as Lingua, Landon Sackett, Grant Jones, Brandon Swain and sophomore Josh Watson who played major roles this season will now assume leadership roles, and Culbertson feels like his outgoing seniors are leaving the team in capable hands.

“They’re going to be the exact same type of people” as the 2013 seniors, Culbertson said. “If you have a bunch of selfish seniors, you’re not going to go very far because everybody else is going to be selfish and get mad at everybody, but if you have a bunch of seniors that are selfless and all about the team — that are strong character kids — you have a chance. That’s what we’ve had the last two years, some really strong senior leadership. And that makes all the difference.”

The seniors’ legacy

But for the outgoing seniors, there will be no third trip to state, only memories of a remarkable two-year run chasing an elusive state title.

“It’s been amazing, honestly,” Dowdy said. “Every guy on that team has stepped up, especially come playoff time, to do their job and get the team where it needs to be. It’s just been amazing two years in a row being one of the final four teams left playing in the state of Texas.”

“The past two years we’ve had really strong senior leadership,” Culbertson said. “We’ve been very athletic. We’ve had good, strong, athletic kids, but we’ve had had some classy high-character seniors that are leading this thing. That attributes to making a strong team.”

“It’s tough because it’s the last game that you remember,” Kendrick said. “Going out the last two years in the semifinals, it’s really tough to see the good that happens throughout the season. But in the big picture, I think we understood how good of a season we had and the success we had the last two years.”

“With the coaching staff and the players coming up, I can just see a great future for Martin,” Lyons added. “For me, to be able to say I was one of the players that got to go to Round Rock twice, which hasn’t happened in a while, I thought that was a great achievement.”

Also graduating are catcher Matt Waller and outfielders Brock Schneider and Jonathan Levitt.

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