Written by Corbett Smith
Even with turnover on rosters, Carroll and L.D. Bell making deep runs
SOUTHLAKE — When Southlake Carroll coach Larry Hughes sat down to draw up his new lineup for the 2012 season, not only were a lot of new names penciled in, even the returning starters had moved to a new position.
“It was certainly an interesting dynamic,” Hughes said. “It was like we were starting over with a completely new team, just about.”
Carroll and, to a lesser extent, Hurst L.D. Bell have both managed to absorb significant losses and find themselves just two series away from a trip to Round Rock for the UIL state baseball tournament.
Carroll (22-10-1) had to essentially reboot their entire roster.
The Dragons returned just four players with varsity experience, three of whom — seniors Ben Sego and Darien McLemore and junior pitcher Tyler Alexander — were starters.
Nineteen seniors graduated from last year’s regional quarterfinalists — including five Division I players.
Despite hitting just .250 as a team, Carroll has advanced farther than its admittedly more-talented predecessor, largely on the strength of its pitching.
Alexander took the role of staff ace early on, striking out 1 ½ batters an inning before going down to a broken wrist at the start of the playoffs.
Senior Greg Maisto, a junior varsity player last year, moved in to the spotlight, and has been nothing short of outstanding. Now committed to Texas A&M, the lefty is a big reason that Carroll’s postseason ERA is 0.52.
“To be honest, I didn’t think we’d go this far,” Maisto said. “But, now that we are here, we want to take it all.”
McLemore, one of the veterans on the team, said watching his teammates rise to the occasion has been “humbling and very impressive.”
L.D. Bell (21-12-1) didn’t have a complete rebuild like Carroll, returning a core group of experienced starters such as seniors Cullen Gassaway, Taylor Empkey, Trevor Podsednik and Weston Sims.
But graduating a transcendent talent is never easy. L.D. Bell graduated all-state catcher Hunter Lockwood, who hit 16 home runs as a senior, as well as two starting pitchers: A.J. Daley and Brad Adams.
While Carroll got hot late, winning its district, L.D. Bell struggled down the stretch — losing three of its last five district games to end up as the third seed in District 6-5A.
But it’s found its second wind in the playoffs.
“We just started to come together at the right time,” L.D. Bell coach Paul Gibson said. “We hadn’t really played well in a couple of weeks. The second half of district, we really didn’t play well at all. But we knew we had it in us.”
Sims, like Maisto, said making a deep playoff run against expectations has been satisfying.
“It’s definitely showing something for us seniors coming back,” Sims said. “We felt we had something to prove. Getting third in district and making it this far has meant a whole lot to us. We’re really looking forward to keeping it going.”
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