Byron Nelson baseball coach Mike Killian understood that the only way to survive in Class 6A was to carry pitching depth.
But there’s a difference between pitching depth and quality pitching depth. There are pitchers who can eat up innings and may or may not keep their teams in games. There are pitchers who can take control of games and are successful more often than not.
That’s what the Bobcats (12-3, 6-2 in District 5-6A) have as they make the stretch run toward clinching a playoff berth in their first year in the new classification. Killian can turn to five arms.
Senior right-hander Gaige Vines is the Tuesday starter. Junior left-hander Will Bresnham is the Friday starter. The bullpen owns three options, including two closers. Senior right-hander Kevin Lentzer can close on Tuesday. Or junior right-hander Jack Wagner can close on Friday. Those roles can reverse. Then there’s junior right-hander Conner Prado, who can either be a starter or a closer depending on the situation or if either Vines or Bresnham is unavailable.
It’s nice to have choice. Almost all of them are pitch-to-contact type of pitchers. They will keep their defense busy. Prado is considered the power pitcher.
“The great thing is that each of them understands his role and really does a great job of getting himself ready,” Killian said. “We had some really good things happen with them. They’ve worked really hard to help us get where we are.”
The Bobcats are coming off a sweep of Justin Northwest last week and play Denton Guyer this week. Tuesday’s game was at Nelson. Friday is at Guyer.
The Texans (8-11-1, 2-6 in 5-6A) have struggled to score runs in part because coach John Herrick cannot find the ideal No. 2 hitter in his lineup.
Typically, high school lineups feature their best hitters in the first six spots. However, the Northwest lineup was impacted drastically when sophomore third baseman Jared Riggio went down with a foot injury a couple of weeks ago.
Herrick has tried a couple of answers in that spot. None has gotten things going to this point. He was considering another option this week with the home-and-home series with Keller Timber Creek.
“You really want to find somebody who can get on base and keep the lineup going,” Herrick said. “Jared was the kind of guy who would give you what you needed. If you needed a double, he’d do that. If you needed a bunt, he’d do that.”
When a spot in the lineup is altered, it also disrupts other parts. Cade Ward is settled at the No. 3 spot. But Herrick also needs more production from his fifth and sixth spots.
Whatever the solution is, it has to come quickly as Northwest is on the verge of being eliminated from the playoffs.
District 5-6A race
Like Nelson, Keller is about to clinch a playoff berth. The Indians lead the district at 8-0. Nelson is running second at 6-2. Keller Timber Creek and Keller Fossil Ridge are tied for third (but hold the third and fourth spots) with 4-4 records. Keller Central and Denton Guyer still have a shot in the playoff race with 3-5 records.