Playing in a new classification is no problem for the Byron Nelson baseball program. Following the lead set by boys basketball and boys soccer, head coach Mike Killian’s program team clinched a playoff berth in District 5-6A with its 3-2 victory over Keller Central last Saturday.
But even more important, this team has clinched its fourth consecutive playoff berth. It’s a standard that Killian has set.
“I can’t say I’m surprised,” Killian said. “We’re building a tradition here. Obviously, we’re humble about the accomplishment because of the work that comes along with it. It’s pretty cool with the things we have done. But we’ve done a good job of establishing things. It’s a matter of playing at the level where we are good enough. We had to have some things go right.”
Nelson (14-5, 8-4 in District 5-6A) closes the regular season with a home-and-home against Keller Fossil Ridge. Tuesday’s game is at Nelson, while Friday is at Fossil Ridge. A win in either of the final two will clinch second place. Keller has already wrapped up the district championship. However, Nelson was going for 10 district wins. No Nelson team has ever won 10 district games.
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The two games against Keller Central became a grind. In the 5-4 loss last Tuesday, the Bobcats jumped out to an early lead before the Chargers regained the lead in the late innings thanks to some disciplined at-bats. Nelson rallied but fell short.
In Saturday’s playoff-clinching victory, the team received a strong performance from senior right-hander Gaige Vines. Nelson scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the seventh.
“We had some chances, but we couldn’t put them away,” Killian said. “But these are the types of games that we are going to get for the rest of the season.”
Should Nelson wrap up second place, it would meet the No. 3 team in District 6-6A, Lewisville Hebron. No playoff meetings will be set until Nelson has clinched its spot.
As for the pitching lineup, the Bobcats get a little bit of break because they played Saturday, while Fossil Ridge did not. Will Bresnhan was scheduled for Tuesday. Vines appeared to be Friday’s starter. Nelson will play one more game, a non-district meeting with Euless Trinity on Saturday. As it turns out, the Trojans are also in the playoffs.
“We decided that both of us were going to play this regardless of what happened with our seasons,” Killian said. “We’re looking forward to it. I think we’re going to be heading into the week with some momentum.”
The Texans (10-13-1, 4-8 in 5-6A) faced a near-impossible task this week to try and rejoin the playoff conversation. They have a home-and-home series with then-undefeated district champion Keller.
For Northwest to make the postseason, it would have had to sweep the Indians and then get a multitude of help. Disappointing losses to Keller Timber Creek and Denton Ryan were followed by a 7-4 victory over the Raiders (remember, teams play a weekly home-and-home series) on Saturday. It was the most runs Northwest has scored in a game since beating Keller Central, 6-4, on April 2.
“It felt good for us to break out offensively like that,” head coach John Herrick said. “Despite a tough week, the kids really responded with a great effort.”