Before the high school baseball season began, Arlington Martin senior pitcher Turner Larkins said mental toughness would be his biggest improvement through his senior season.
Tuesday it was demonstrated in Martin’s 14-1 victory over North Crowley.
Martin strung together a quality offensive inning in the top of the second, giving Larkins, Martin’s starter, a 7-0 cushion.
The Texas A&M commit quickly disposed of North Crowley’s first two batters in the bottom of the second, but allowed his first base runner of the game on a four-pitch walk, followed by an RBI double by Ethan Bleeker off the left center wall.
Larkins knew allowing North Crowley hope with two outs in an inning does not lead to successful pitching and he quickly made the adjustment, striking out the next batter looking.
“That’s not where I want to be,” Larkins said. “I want to close it out strong and smell blood. I just got back into it.”
Larkins followed the second with three more innings of work, allowing one hit and still facing the minimum number of batters through his five innings of work.
After North Crowley second baseman Parker Bryant reached on a hard ground ball single to left in the bottom of the third, Larkins picked him off at first to end the inning.
“Every time we see him out there we know we’re going to get strikes,” Martin head coach Curt Culbertson said. “We know we’re going to get a competitor. It was his turn to pitch and we’re going to roll him out there and let him go.”
Another seven runs in the top of the sixth for Martin (14-6, 3-1 in District 3-5A) put the game out of reach and ended it early in a six-inning run rule, but Culbertson said he would prefer to see his team spread those runs out and take hold of the game earlier.
“I feel like we do need some better at-bats in those middle innings when we had opportunities to really put this thing away early,” he said. We didn’t get in there and have really good at-bats, but we’re improving. We’re getting better.”
Martin’s best at-bats came from third baseman Daniel Lingua, who went 2 for 4 with two RBIs and two runs.
Regardless of the offensive performance, Martin’s ace did exactly what he does best to secure the win over North Crowley (13-6, 2-2 in District 3-5A) — throw strikes.
“He may lose the strike zone sometimes, but he always works his way back into the strike zone,” Culbertson said. “He never has a mental breakdown and loses it. His mental toughness has definitely improved.”