Southlake Carroll baseball takes advantage of fast start in opener, tops FM Marcus, 5-2

SOUTHLAKE — Southlake Carroll coach Larry Hughes said a little complacency — not cockiness — might set in when his team grabs an early lead. And who could blame his players? Carroll came into its series opener against Flower Mound Marcus with a staff ERA of 1.71. In 14 district games, Carroll’s ERA was under 1.00, with eight shutouts.

“We feel pretty comfortable, sometimes too comfortable,” Hughes said.

Such was the case in Game 1 of the Class 5A Region I semifinal. Carroll jumped out to a three-run first-inning lead, and sophomore starter Ben Leeper did the rest, throwing a complete-game four-hitter in a 5-2 win.

“I just felt confident coming out tonight,” Leeper said. “I knew the crowd was going to be big, and I embraced that. And we did a good job.”

Leeper, who struck out seven, had been the second starter for Carroll (33-4-1) during this playoff run, behind senior ace and TCU signee Tyler Alexander. But Hughes switched his spot, letting Leeper know a few days before the start.

“Ben has pitched well at home,” Hughes said. “He’s a young guy — a sophomore — and he’s comfortable at home. It’s just common sense. I’m no smarter than anyone else.”

Carroll jumped on Marcus sophomore Jack Cushing in the first inning, with a RBI single by Kenny Hill and a two-RBI single by Nic Motley.

“It’s been unbelievable,” Carroll leadoff hitter Joe Heineman said of his team’s pitching staff. Heineman went 3-for-4 with two runs scored. “We have tremendous confidence in our pitching, with Leeper, Tyler [Alexander] and Sean [Thompson], if we have to go to Game 3.”

Marcus (32-7) grabbed two runs back in the third, on a two-run double by Matt Bernstein. But Leeper settled in after that, allowing only one hit in the final four innings.

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