Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: Strong pitching gives hope that Dallas area's baseball title drought will end
When a no-hitter makes it to the late innings, mentioning it is considered a baseball taboo. So as we get late in the playoffs, maybe I should worry about some similar superstition as I talk about the area’s championship drought.
Still, I’m just going to come out and say it:
Although no team from the Dallas-Fort Worth area has won a UIL Class 4A or 5A title since 2008, I think this is the year the drought ends.
Well, it could be. I’ll soften my stance so I’m not blamed for triggering some kind of baseball curse that keeps a local team from winning a championship.
But I do think local teams have a great chance this year, and pitching is a big reason.
Consider some of the performances over the weekend:
Southlake Carroll’s Greg Maisto threw a one-hitter to knock out Flower Mound in a playoff, and Arlington Martin swept Lubbock Coronado with pitching gems by Turner Larkins and Nick Hendrix. Each pitched a complete game, and they combined to strike out 19.
Rockwall-Heath swept Frisco Centennial as its aces, Jovan Hernandez and Jake Thompson, allowed a combined six hits in two complete games.
None of those teams used more than two pitchers over the weekend, which is great for keeping a staff fresh. It’s also a relief for coaches because there is often a significant dropoff from the second to the third pitcher.
But pitchers deeper in the staff can sometimes be the deciding factor in a series. That was the case in Frisco Wakeland’s win over Highland Park, when Wakeland aces Hayden Nixon and Willie Schwanke went the distance in Games 1 and 2. Wakeland trailed, 3-0, after the top of the first in the deciding Game 3.
In came Cameron Brockhoff, who had thrown only 272/3 innings all season and had an ERA of 4.34. The junior threw 52/3 shutout innings as Wakeland rallied for a 4-3 victory.
“He was clutch,” Wakeland coach Barry Rose said. “We would not have won without him.”
The same could be said of Waxahachie’s Ryan Cawthon and Denton Ryan’s Travis Wiley, who each won a Game 3 on Saturday. Cawthon pitched a four-hitter and struck out six as Waxahachie beat Corsicana, 4-2. Wiley, in addition to having a great series as a hitter, went the distance on the mound as Ryan beat Lake Dallas, 10-3.
Hurst L.D. Bell has relied heavily on Blake Henderson, who has three complete-game victories in the playoffs. But in a Game 3 against Plano East on Saturday, the starting job fell on Weston Sims. The No. 3 guy on L.D. Bell’s staff, making his first start of the playoffs, came through with a four-hitter in a 2-1 victory.
This year’s new bat regulations, which have cut into offensive numbers and lowered ERAs, have contributed to some of the pitching success. But even so, the impressive pitching Saturday offers hope that local teams will end the championship drought two weeks from now.
When the third or fourth pitcher on a roster can be that potent, a team is tough to beat in a best-of-3 series.