A week ago, the Legacy baseball team swept through its bi-district opponent Whitehouse on the strength of its usual suspects. Experienced guys like Corey Murray and Sam Mahofski powered the offense, while the top of the pitching rotation did its job.
In this past weekend’s area round series with McKinney North, the Broncos’ top two arms once again shined bright, but the offense also got significant contributions from a few players still getting their playoff feet wet.
In Friday night’s tightly contested, extra-innings Game 1, eight- and nine-hole hitters Aaron Johns and Dalton Dunn came up with half the club’s hits.
“This weekend, Aaron and Dalton were real big offensively,” Legacy coach David Walden said.
It wasn’t as though the top of the order faltered – Murray and Cole Hearrean each has solid performances at the plate, as well – but it was a reassuring for the Broncos to see that any hitter could come through in a clutch spot.
“If you’re going to advance, everybody is going to have to contribute, and you can’t just have a couple of guys get hot,” Walden said.
Hearrean, who started on the mound Friday and went the distance while limiting North to just a single run, said it reinforced the confidence this club has in each other.
“It’s a great feeling when you have confidence in your entire line up,” he said. “We’re not bummed if it’s a tough situation and we’re in the bottom of the lineup. Anybody that we put up to bat can come through and help us out. We don’t have a weak part of our lineup that I can see.”
Hearrean kept his team in the game long enough for Garrett Bell to knock in the deciding run the top of the eighth, earning high marks from Walden.
“He was real strong the entire ball game,” Walden said. “In fact, he got stronger as the game went on. The eighth was probably his strongest inning. He’s just a real mentally tough kid that did an outstanding job.”
Hearrean admitted that the pressure started to increase as the game extended on, but he never wanted to leave the mound.
“I felt really strong. I wanted to stay in the game as long as I could, as long as my arm would let me,” he said. “I knew we’d come through in the end. It was getting a little scary, having only scored one run. I didn’t have much room for error, but I knew it was going to come. It’s a good feeling when you know you can just pitch and let your defense play and that your offense is going to score some runs for you.”
Saturday’s Game 2 starter, Blake Wilson, didn’t have to wait for run support, as the Broncos came out swinging and plated three runs in the opening frame, courtesy of a Hearrean home run.
“I was actually telling the team we needed to put up three [runs] in the first because we didn’t score much [Friday] and it would be nice to get some runs and give Blake some cushion,” Hearrean added. “I was just swinging for contact. I wouldn’t say I got lucky, I was confident I could get a hit. There was a little wind behind me and that helped, but I got a good hit and ended up going over the fence. It was a good feeling because we needed those three runs. After that I think [North] was kind of down the whole game and that’s what we needed.”
Even though the Broncos added a pair of insurance runs in the 5-0 series-clinching win, Wilson never needed them. He cruised his way to a complete-game three-hitter.
“He was really locked in Saturday,” Walden said. “He was focused and pitched a solid game. It may have been the best game I’ve seen him pitch since he’s been at Legacy. He was spot-on; he didn’t walk anybody. I think he only got to three-ball counts maybe two times.”
The Broncos’ opponent in the Regional Quarterfinal round will be a familiar one. Legacy faces Red Oak, a team it defeated twice in the regular season, 9-2 and 3-0. Despite the fact the Hawks were the fourth seed from District 15-4A, neither Walden nor his players are approaching the series lightly.
“They’re very capable and they’re playing really well right now,” Walden said. “They beat Nacogdoches, which was the No. 1 seed out of 16-4A.”
The Hawks also swept past 13-4A runner-up Lovejoy this past weekend.
“I don’t think we’ll relax,” Walden said. “I think [our players] respect those guys over there. I think we’ll be just as focused as always. They know when you get to this round that you better be playing your best baseball.”
“We know that we can’t come in too confident and we have to play hard,” Hearrean added. “We’re not going to take these games lightly just because we beat them twice already.”