Grant Jones and 16 of his Martin baseball teammates are now high school graduates. The school’s commencement ceremony was June 7. But before their time as Warriors is through, Jones and his fellow seniors have a chance to go out as state champions.
Martin (27-5) last won a baseball state title in 1993 – four years before Jones was born. The Warriors take on Laredo Alexander at noon Friday in Round Rock in the state semifinals.
“It’d be great to be a part of – and be – a state champion in 2015,” Jones said.
Jones, the starting shortstop, knows what it is like to play on the big stage of the state tournament. He traveled with the 2012 team that reached the state semifinals and started at second base for the 2013 team that got back to the state tournament.
Senior second baseman Trip White said the experience of players like Jones gives the team added confidence headed into the later rounds of the playoffs.
“We have kids who have been playing in those games,” White said. “We have some veterans of some teams that have been there. You’ve got to stay relaxed and just got to get there first. We’re just going one day at a time.”
Prior to the Region I final series against Keller, Jones compared this team to the 2012 and 2013 squads. Like those teams, this group of Warriors pairs great pitching with a deep lineup where any of the batters are capable of driving in runs in a key moment.
“It’s all about, right now, scoring runs,” Jones said. “If you can produce runs and we have right now a strong pitching staff, then I feel like we can win ballgames. And as it’s showing, we are.”
Against Keller, just as in the prior round against Southlake Carroll, Martin received strong pitching performances from Eric Walker and Nick Skeffington in Game 2 and Game 3. Skeffington’s victories in those two rounds were his first two playoff appearances.
“We have faith in Eric. We had to score some runs and he was going to put us in a great position to win,” White said of the Southlake Carroll series. “Skeff did his job and was awesome. Good team win.”
A pre-season game against Keller ended in a tie. It took a third and deciding playoff game to sort out which was the better squad. In the deciding third game, Martin showed its quality by pouring on seven runs combined in the third and fourth innings on the way to a 14-4 victory.
“From the scrimmage, they were very quality all the way around,” White said of Keller.
Keller won the first game 9-8 after Martin’s late-inning rally fell short. But in Games 2 and 3 Martin got off to an early lead, and the advantage held up.
“That’s what’s going to have to happen from here on out: We have a strong pitching staff. And we need to produce all the way through the order,” Jones said.
Martin lost its first district game of the season to Lamar but swept through the rest of its district season. And the Warriors, to this point, have only lost two postseason games. Martin coach Curt Culbertson has said the senior-laden team doesn’t need much coaching, just a reminder every now and then. Culbertson’s belief in the Warriors has paid off.
“He’s a great coach,” Jones said. “We’ve gone out here and played the best we can, and it’s showing in the playoffs. There’s a lot of confidence that he has in us.”
Jones, White and company have the confidence to win two more games. “Every game’s important to us,” White said. “We’re just looking at the next one and not too far into the future. Of course, as you go, you feel a bit more the importance of the game as less teams are playing. You just have to keep playing.”