Unranked in the Texas High School Baseball Coaches preseason poll, Arlington Martin made it all the way to the UIL Class 6A state tournament.
The Warriors rallied from a two-run deficit in Friday’s semifinals, but Martin could not repeat the magic Saturday, losing to Houston Cypress Ranch 3-0 in the 6A title game at Dell Diamond.
“We weren’t on anybody’s radar at the beginning of the year, and now, what they accomplished as a group of young men, truly it was outstanding,” said Martin coach Curt Culbertson, whose team finished 28-6. “That is one thing we’ve been doing, coming from behind a lot. Which is why everybody felt like we could do it again today.”
The visiting team, Cy Ranch (31-6) got single runs in the first, third, and fifth innings. That was just enough offense for Mustangs starting pitcher Brent Hebert (6-1), the game’s MVP. The senior right-hander lasted five innings and didn’t allow a Martin runner to reach third until the fifth.
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In the fifth, the Warriors had runners on first and third with no outs, but Martin batter Trip White was unable to reach Hebert’s pitch on strike three and on the same play White’s teammate Grant Jones was thrown out trying to steal second. Martin runner Stuart Stone was still on third, but a lineout to left field ended the inning.
“That was the inning,” Culbertson said of the fifth. “We needed something to come out of that inning. The kid made a great pitch and froze Trip. Didn’t look like Grant made a great jump, but hey, they were trying to make something happen.”
Cy Ranch also won the Class 5A (now 6A) title in 2012, beating Martin 6-0 in the state semifinals. For Martin, it was the Warriors’ third trip to the state tournament in four years. Martin also lost in the semifinals in 2013 and in 1990. The Warriors won the state championship in 1993.
“We had a great season. I’m really proud of all of my teammates,” said Martin center fielder Josh Watson, a TCU signee and four-year starter for the Warriors. “We battled. It’s a lot better than bronze. I’ll take a silver medal.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have been blessed with a great coaching staff and a lot of good players throughout the years. We’ve got a lot of guys that are playing college baseball right now. It’s been a fun four years.”
With Game 3 wins each of the past two weeks, Culbertson chose junior left-hander Nick Skeffington as the title-game starter.
“It was incredible,” Skeffington said. “It was the position every kid wants to be in.”
The Mustangs loaded the bases with one out in the first inning, but Skeffington (6-2) limited the damage to one run. He pitched 6 1/3 innings, allowing seven hits and a walk, with five strikeouts and three runs (two earned).
“I was on,” Skeffington said. “They just had timely hits and we couldn’t do it today.”
Staff writer Darren Lauber contributed to this report.
Eric Zarate, 817-390-7237