It’s often said in sports that you just have to get hot at the right time of year. For the Aledo baseball team, it didn’t appear that was happening.
The Bearcats lost two of their final three district games to end up with the third seed from 7-4A. From there, though, Aledo (28-6) took another sports cliché to heart — that the playoffs are a whole new season.
Aledo plays Wolfforth Friendship in a best-of-three Class 4A Region I semifinal series starting Friday night at McMurry University in Abilene.
“We had some guys that weren’t hitting the ball real well toward the end of the season. Really, as a whole team we weren’t hitting well,” coach Chad Barry said. “I think they realized that once the playoffs started, it was a new season and all that other stuff didn’t mean anything and they let it fall by the wayside.
“I think they had a bit of an attitude shift, and then had a bit of success [in the early rounds] that kind of got their confidence back.”
That confidence is the highest it’s been all season after facing elimination and coming back to defeat District 5-4A champion Wichita Falls two weeks ago, and then following that with a dramatic series win last week over Birdville in which the Bearcats won both games in extra innings.
“I think it gave them a confidence that their pitching and defense is going to keep them in games, even if they don’t have a lot of success hitting early, and they can find a way to win games late,” Barry said. “This time of year, that’s huge. They feel like they’re always in the game. To win games late like that, hopefully we can rely on that poise if we get into a tight situation down the road.”
Entering the baseball postseason, Mansfield Legacy wasn’t sure who would take the mound if it faced a third game in a series. Through the first two rounds, the Broncos didn’t have to face the issue.
But last week, Red Oak took Legacy (27-9) to a decisive Game 3, and it’s probably safe to say that Kade Strowd nailed down that third rotation spot.
The sophomore pitched only a handful of innings at the varsity level early in the season, and was called up from the JV for the playoffs. All he did last Saturday was provide his team with five scoreless innings en route to the Broncos’ 1-0 series-clinching victory.
Legacy plays Prosper in a best-of-three 4A Region II semifinal series at Dallas Baptist University starting Thursday night.
“I pitched some in the tournaments, but that’s not anything like the playoffs,” Strowd said, confessing that the butterflies in his stomach were awful. “I’ll be more relaxed if I get the call-up again, though.”
The Azle softball team is one series away from making its third appearance in the 4A UIL state tournament — the first since 2009 — and faces an Aledo (28-4) team that, in many ways, was in the same situation last season. The regional final series starts at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Saginaw Chisholm Trail.
Aledo advanced to state last year without a senior on its roster. This season Azle (31-4) has just one senior. First-year Hornets coach Tracy Tadlock doesn’t necessarily think class levels tell the story as much as experience.
“They’ve been playing this game all their lives, together for a lot of them,” he said. “So, as far as that goes, I wouldn’t say we’re that young. Age-wise, yeah, we’re young.”
Tadlock, an Azle graduate who spent the previous two seasons coaching at nearby Springtown, knew there was plenty of talent when he took the job at Azle, but wasn’t sure how quickly everything could jell.
“I knew we had a lot of talent,” he explained. “I would say bringing it altogether — they’ve all really bought into what we’re trying to do here — and so to have it come together as quickly as it has, that’s been a pleasant surprise for everybody.”
Azle is responsible for one of Aledo’s four losses this season. The Hornets defeated the Bearcats in a February tournament, but Tadlock points out that both teams are quite different now, and it’s likely that both will have different starting pitchers for this matchup.
“I think it’ll be a pretty evenly matched series,” he said. “I don’t think we’re intimidated by anybody. We’re good enough to play with anybody. We’re going to go out and do what we do well, and if we do we’ll be all right.”
Balanced on an ankle
Mansfield Timberview softball pitcher Mariah Denson barely made it through last weekend’s regional semifinal sweep of Richland, limping noticeably during and after games. Denson (25-3) has dealt with a bad ankle for almost three weeks.
Wolves coach Donya Mooney said the team is staying positive that its ace will be ready Friday when Timberview (29-6) faces Lubbock Coronado at Abilene Christian University in a 5A regional final.
“She seems to be doing much better,” Mooney said Wednesday. “We’re still treating her every day and we’re hopeful she’ll be a go on Friday.”