The Mansfield baseball team took care of business in the bi-district round of the playoffs this past weekend with a series victory over Richland and now has its sights set on an even bigger prize.
The Tigers will square off with Keller in the area round in a series that coach Gary Vaughan said promises to feature some outstanding pitching.
“From what I've heard and what we've scouted, they have a tremendous pitching rotation,” Vaughan said. “They have six or seven pitchers, with a couple of them going to DI schools, from what I hear. We are going to have to make an adjustment at the plate and try to scratch out some runs when we can.”
The dates and locations of the series with Keller had not been announced at the press deadline; see www.dfwvarsity.com for updates.
Mansfield defeated Richland 9-8 last Thursday, but then lost to the Rebels 4-3 in extra innings in Game 2. The Tigers rebounded with a 2-0 victory in the series finale, and Vaughan said his team played well.
“It was a great series, and both teams matched up about the same,” Vaughan said. “It was just a three-game battle. All three games were very close. I was very proud of the way my kids responded.
“My kids just went through a playoff series where the first game was 9-8, and I figured that would be the last game. Then the last game was 2-0, which was very intense.”
Vaughan said that following the loss in Game 2 to the Rebels he had a “come to Jesus” talk with his players, of sorts.
“As soon as that game was over with, we had a team meeting and talked about it for about five minutes,” Vaughan said. “Because we had opportunities to win that ball game, and unfortunately, didn't make it happen. I told my kids that when we get to the playoffs, we can't have that. We've got to have that ‘eight-year-old’ energy, just like an eight-year old on Saturday.”
Vaughan said he did have a couple of standout performances in the series.
“Aaron Funk did a great job for us,” Vaughan said. “He's got an injured shoulder, but he's playing through that, and did a tremendous job of being the spark plug to get us going. All three pitchers, Nathan Woods, Tyler Stacy, and then we had a tremendous effort out of Trevor Hukill in the final game against Richland. We were expecting three innings out of him, and he pitched the whole game and shut them out. He kept them off balance all game long and did a great job.”
Vaughan said that his team is playing pretty good ball right now, but said that he still does not believe that the Tigers have peaked yet, which bodes well as the playoffs move forward.
“There are still some improvements we can use on timely hits,” Vaughan said. “If you get good pitching, play strong defense and then come up with timely hits, then you don't have to get 10 hits to win a ball game. We want to be in a situation where with one good base hit, we can score two important runs. We're not getting that done consistently right now. We're finding a way to win, but we could make it easier on ourselves if we could find a way to come up with those key timely hits.”