Josh Avery and Spencer Johnston will soon depart on a long journey. The Arlington Martin teammates will head to the distant Panhandle town of Borger to start their college baseball careers at Frank Phillips College.
But the senior duo has some finishing touches to put on their high school career first. The Warriors faced Southlake Carroll in a best-of-three series for the regional championship and a berth in the state tournament.
And sandwiched between Game 2 and a possible Game 3 was Martin High School graduation on Friday evening (June 2). Game 2 is earlier that afternoon against the Dragons. “We’ll finish the game and then go get ready [for graduation],” Avery said. “We’re thinking more about the game.”
We definitely came out more aggressive, knowing it could be our last game. We definitely had a lot of intensity.
- Martin third baseman Josh Avery, on entering Game 2 against Flower Mound Marcus
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Johnston and Avery’s focus was evident in the regional semifinals against Flower Mound Marcus. Those two combined for four RBIs in a 10-0 shutout win in the decisive Game 3. And Johnston earned the victory on the mound in a complete-game effort shortened by the 10-run mercy rule. Johnston’s run-scoring single in the bottom of the fifth put the finishing touches on the series victory.
“I try to focus on pitching more than batting, because I feel like I can help the team when I’m out there on the mound,” said Johnston, who starts at first base when he’s not pitching. “If I do good at the plate, it helps me on the mound. If I do bad at the plate, it really doesn’t affect me on the mound.”
Johnston’s all-around dominant outing came a day after fellow senior pitcher Kenneth Waller pitched a two-hit shutout as Martin avenged an 11-0 loss in the series’ first game. Martin outscored Marcus 15-11 in the series, but the Marauders never touched home after Game 1.
“We had a lot more fire going into Game 2 because we had a do-or-die situation,” said Avery, the starting third baseman. “We definitely came out more aggressive, knowing it could be our last game. We definitely had a lot of intensity.”
Avery still has vivid memories of coming back to win the second and third games of best-of-three series during Martin’s most recent run to state in 2015. Part of the recipe for success them, as now, had to do with a deep pitching staff.
“Two years ago, we had a lot of Game 3s, too,” Avery said. “We also had a good Game 2 and Game 3 pitcher, and we were ready to play.”
Avery’s always ready to play. What he’s not ready for their time as Warriors to be over. “When I go into Game 3, I think this could be my last high school game,” Avery said. “That brings my intensity up a lot and I play my hardest. That goes for Game 2 also.”
The Arlington Martin baseball team faces a team it has a favorable playoff history against. Southlake Carroll has fallen to Martin in the 2012, 2013 and 2015 playoffs, and they meet again June 1.
Thursday’s opener begins at 5 p.m. Game 2 on Friday is scheduled for 2 p.m. A potential deciding third game would be at 11 a.m. Saturday. All games are at Dallas Baptist University.
The Martin softball team dominated the 4-6A all-district honors, highlighted by Coach of the Year for Rachel Riley, MVP for pitcher Lacy Mann, Offensive MVP for outfielder Jenna Rhoades and Catcher MVP for Olivia Reames.
Other Lady Warriors honored include first-team selections Jadyn James, Jenica Kevil, Jenna Rude and Nissy Lechuga.
Arlington had the Defensive MVP in outfielder Mikail Ragland and first-teamers in Renee Flores, Lauryn Henson and Brooke Kolanek.
Lamar’s first-team selections were Taneja Ross and Ashley Stone. Sam Houston had Hannah Lyle on the first team, and Bowie had Rosa James.
Stephen English: firstname.lastname@example.org, @sbenglish74