Written by Corbett Smith
Scouting report: What Hurst L.D. Bell must do to defeat Coronado
Hurst L.D. Bell (32-9) vs. Lubbock Coronado (30-14)
Game 1: 7:00 Thursday at McMurry Univ., Abilene
Game 2: 7:00 Friday at Hardin-Simmons, Abilene
Game 3 (if nec.): 1:00 Saturday at Hardin-Simmons
Hurst L.D. Bell: Fear the beard. After getting a free pass to grow facial hair from coach Paul Gibson after their win over Coppell in the area round, the bearded Bell -- the champs of a tough 6-5A -- swept district foe Colleyville Heritage in the quarterfinal round and Midland in the semis.
Largely, it has been a result of the pitching performances by Bell's No. 1A and 1B starters, senior right-handers A.J. Daley and Brad Adams. Daley dominated Midland's line-up, pitching a one-hitter in a Game 1 win. Adams has been perfect in the playoffs, going 4-0. But he's been all over the board. He pitched a no-hitter against Grand Prairie, got the win in a 15-10 slugfest in Game 1 against Coppell, and got the close-out win against Heritage with a 1-0 shutout -- a game where he walked eight. He battled against Midland, falling behind early but holding steady for a 5-4 win.
The middle of the Bell lineup, No. 3-6 hitters Hunter Lockwood, Cullen Gassaway, Matt Simmons and A.J. Daley, has been potent in the playoffs. Lockwood, an Oklahoma signee, was the area's 5A home run leader in the regular season (16).
Lubbock Coronado: Coronado -- the District 2-5A runners-up behind Amarillo -- obliterated Plano's pitching in the semis, getting 49 hits in three games. After things looked gloomy after dropping Game 1, 13-12, on a three-run Plano home run in the top of the seventh, Coronado bounced back for a Saturday sweep. That shouldn't be surprising; it was the third straight series that Coronado lost the first game only to sweep a doubleheader to advance.
Coronado is batting over .380, averaging more than nine runs per game the season. Entering the playoffs, every starter on the team was batting at least .310, and six players had an OPS of 1.000 or higher. The front of the lineup -- second baseman Braydon Blackwell, centerfielder Christian Simmons and shortstop Paxton De La Garza -- is especially potent. Blackwell and De La Garza tormented Plano pitching,
going 18 for 28, with five home runs, 15 RBI, and 15 runs scored. Simmons is the team's leading hitter, batting over .480.
Klein (35-10) vs. Klein Oak (35-14) -- Fresh of sweeping two Dallas-area teams, Rowlett and Jesuit, the District 13-5A rivals go head-to-head for a spot in the state tournament. Both teams split the regular-season series; Klein Oak beat Klein in a district tiebreaker for the No. 1 seed. Last year, Klein beat Klein Collins in the regional final, en route to finishing runners-up.
Brazoswood (28-8) vs. Houston Memorial (32-8) -- This is a rematch of last year's Region III semifinal, that Memorial won in three games. On Saturday, Memorial dropped the nation's No. 3-ranked team, Fort Bend Clements, in a three-game series. Clements beat Memorial in last year's regional final to make it to Round Rock.
Corpus Christi Carroll (32-6) vs. Laredo Alexander (29-9).
Carroll -- the defending 5A champs -- started the season as Baseball America's preseason No. 1, then went 1-3 in its opening tourney. Carroll's gone 31-3 since. Alexander's Mario Maldonado retired 27 of 29 batters he faced in the regional semis, getting a save and a one-hit win.