Spencer Johnston knew his curveball was working and his cutter was effective. But the Arlington Martin baseball team’s right-hander didn’t know he had a no-hitter going.
So it was no disappointment to the senior pitcher when he finally give up a hit in the sixth inning of the Warriors’ decisive Game 3 area-round game against Wolfforth Frenship. Instead of worrying about his stat line, Johnston was focused on the bigger picture: giving the defensive-oriented 4-6A champions a chance to win.
“I gave it up in the sixth inning,” Johnston said of his no-hit bid. He ended up pitching six innings of one-run ball to earn the win. “I didn’t even know I had one, though. I wasn’t thinking at all. … I knew we were going to get it in Game 2, so I was prepared to go in Game 3. I just jumped in there and had to hit and pitch.”
While many playoff teams have a dominant No. 1 starter, Martin forces teams to deal with at least four formidable pitchers, all of whom are seniors: right-handed starter Maddux Miller, left-hander Kenneth Waller and Johnston, plus right-handed closer Kurt Wilson.
Me and [Johnston] knew it was on us for the season. After [Frenship] won Game 1, they got a little excited. But Coach [Curt] Culbertson told us all year not to panic.
- Martin senior pitcher Kenneth Waller
That pitching prowess helped Martin win the second and third games against Frenship on May 13 and advance to the third round against El Paso Socorro. In the area round, Socorro defeated Martin’s crosstown rival Lamar.
“Me and [Johnston] knew it was on us for the season,” said Waller, who went 6 2/3 innings to earn the Game 2 victory against Frenship. “After [Frenship] won Game 1, they got a little excited. But Coach [Curt] Culbertson told us all year not to panic.”
Instead of panic, Martin pitchers displayed poise. Waller – who, like Miller, throws in the high 80s – kept Frenship batters off-balance in the first six innings as Martin built a 5-0 lead. “At the beginning, I had command of off-speed stuff,” Waller said. “They were good hitters, but if I can get that over for strikes in the beginning, it’s going to be tough.”
Frenship struck for three runs in the seventh, but Wilson, who starts at shortstop, took the hill for the final out, earning a save and preserving a 5-3 victory. “I struggled at the end a little bit with walk,” Waller said. “I got a little tired. I gave up some runs, but my team picked me up.”
Johnston, who starts at first base when not pitching, also lauded his team for giving him an early boost. The Warriors plated three runs in the first inning in Game 3. Senior third baseman Josh Avery swatted a two-run single. And Johnston, who will play college ball at Frank Phillips College in Borger, helped his own cause with a run-scoring single.
“There’s a lot less stress,” Johnston said of pitching with the lead. “The pitching is better.”
Johnston, who turned things over to Wilson – whose fastball tops out in the mid-90s – for a three-out save, echoed Waller’s sentiments: When it’s a win-or-go-home situation, the most important things a pitcher can do are stick to his routine and not panic.
“I tried not to do any more than I could,” Johnston said. “I knew I needed to go in there and throw strikes and make sure all my pitches were on. They were all where they needed to be.”
As long as Martin’s pitchers play to their strengths, the Warriors will remain tough to beat twice in a best-of-three matchup. “A team that can beat us once with their ace, they’ve still got to have another one to go,” Johnston said. “We have three or four good guys, and we help each other out by doing things different.”
The Arlington Martin baseball team kicks off the regional quarterfinals at 4:30 p.m. Friday, facing El Paso Socorro at Odessa High School, which will be the site for the entire series.
Game 2 is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, and if necessary, Game 3 would follow 30 minutes after the conclusion of Game 2.
Visit dfwvarsity.com for updates and scores, and get game updates by following @dfwvarsity on Twitter.
The Arlington Optimist Club is registering for youth football leagues for age groups beginning at Pre-K/Kindergarten and ranging up to sixth grade. This season, 11-on-11 tackle football begins at the third grade level, with younger brackets playing flag football in teams of five (Pre-K/Kindergarten) or seven.
League play begins after Labor Day (Sept. 4) and finishes with City Championship games the week before Thanksgiving.
Information and registration: oca.siplay.com
Stephen English: firstname.lastname@example.org, @sbenglish74