The Martin baseball team has been tested by Lamar before. The Warriors’ District 4-6A opener March 15 was no different.
Lamar edged Martin in nine innings on the road to open district play in 2015. It proved to be the Warriors’ only district loss on the way to a 4-6A title and a run to the state championship game.
This time, Martin found a way to fend off Lamar at the Vikings’ home field. “It’s always a good game here,” starting pitcher Eric Walker said of the 4-1 Martin victory. “Glad to pull out the win.”
Walker, a senior who has committed to LSU, pitched seven innings and limited Lamar to one run. The Vikings pitching tandem of Brendan Bell (six innings) and reliever Nick Llorente (two innings) also limited the Warriors to just one run in the first seven frames.
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“We knew it was going to be like that again,” Martin coach Curt Culbertson said. “Bell’s been pitching well.”
Dane Hall ended the stalemate in the top of the eighth. The senior catcher stepped to the plate with one out and runners on first and second. He delivered a single to right for a 2-1 Martin advantage — the first Warriors run since a solo homer run by Spencer Sackett in the first.
“Trying to get a deep fly ball, just something hard through,” Hall said.
Martin would tack on two more runs to take a three-run lead into the bottom of the inning. Senior Conner Lidiak entered in relief and allowed just one base runner and striking out two, including the final batter.
“I don’t have to stretch it out,” Walker said of his night ending after seven frames. “I have a lot of great pitching behind me. It’s the strength of our team. We have Conner. We have [Kody Bullard]. We have [Nick Skeffington]. We have a whole bunch of guys. All the guys who pitched last year.”
Making Walker feel especially good about the win was his team overcoming two costly errors. “First district game, I wanted to get into a groove,” said Walker, who pitched Martin to a win in the state semifinals in 2015. “I got some strikeouts that helped. The defense struggled a little bit, but we battled at the end. It was just a good overall team win.”
It’s early still, but the pitching staff has appeared to pick up where it left off last season. Martin went 13-2 in nondistrict play — and that was with Lidiak pitching just three innings during that span. Lidiak was a starter on the Martin basketball team, which reached the regional tournament this month.
“Our mound is our strong suit,” Hall said. “We just need to get a lineup behind them and we’ll win some games.”
Martin, under new coach and former Lady Warriors player Rachel Riley, has had an up-and-down start in district play, getting lopsided victories over Lamar (18-3), Sam Houston (20-0) and Bowie (21-2) before suffering its first loss last Monday, 18-15 to Weatherford.
In spring break play made necessary by weather postponements, the Lady Warriors also lost 8-3 to Fort Worth Paschal last Wednesday.
If games are played according to schedule this week — no guarantee for softball season — the Lady Warriors will host Arlington on Tuesday before visiting North Crowley on at 6 p.m. Thursday.
The Lady Colts, off to a 1-3 start, host Paschal at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Bowie, off to a 2-3 start, has a pair of dangerous foes this week in Paschal on Tuesday and hosting Weatherford at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Lamar has Weatherford on Tuesday and visits Sam Houston at 6 p.m. Thursday, while the Lady Texans have North Crowley for their Tuesday game.
Seguin has a pair of road games scheduled for this week, with Red Oak on Tuesday followed by Mansfield Summit at 7 p.m. Thursday.
April 1 marks the beginning of registration for indoor soccer, T-ball, modified coach-pitch baseball and coach-pitch baseball leagues organized by the Arlington Parks and Recreation Department.
Registration fee for each league is $75, with competition beginning June 11.
Stephen English: firstname.lastname@example.org, @sbenglish74