Despite a dominant, 10-0 game one win over the Clyde Bulldogs in the Class 3A quarterfinals, the Brock Eagles found themselves holding off a late comeback by the same team it handily shut out before in game two.
Luckily for the Eagles, a fast start on the offensive end (five first-inning runs) and clutch pitching by Carson Lightfoot late made sure Clyde’s bid to even the series failed.
With that, Eagles’ Head Coach Hart Hering stressed that great teams find a way to win any type of ballgame, including tight affairs like last Saturday’s.
In the end, Brock notched its third-straight playoff series sweep of the season, setting the team up for a spot in the next round, something Hering said the Eagles are mentally locked in for.
“I think we are peaking at the right time and playing with confidence,” Hering said.
“We have been finding ways to score first and then continuing to apply pressure to add to those early leads. I certainly feel like our team has found a lot of different ways to win games this year and this postseason.”
The Eagles (28-4-1) play the Bushland Falcons (23-5-1) in a Class 3A best 2-of-3 regional semifinal series with game one starting at noon Thursday at Lubbock Cooper High School.
Game two starts at noon Friday (Iowa Park HS), with game three (if needed) beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday (Iowa Park HS).
If Brock’s regular season is any indicator, the team finds itself in a favorable position after the close call with Clyde.
The Eagles’ first loss of the year, a 2-1 tournament bout with Pantego Christian in early March, was followed up with three dominant wins against Mineral Wells (11-0), Grace Prep (13-4) and Brady (7-1).
Brock’s district opener, a hard-fought 2-1 win over Breckenridge, was succeeded by double-digit wins against Tolar (16-1) and Jacksboro (24-2).
The most recent example came after Brock’s 2-1 district win over rival Peaster in late April, with the former securing big wins against Paradise (7-0), Millsap (15-1), Valley View (9-1) and even the Eagles’ first playoff opponent Childress (wins of 12-2 and 8-1, respectively).
Granted, Bushland has proven itself a capable team in its own right, finishing as the District 1-3A champion with a record of 9-1.
Like the Eagles, the Falcons’ dominance has carried over into postseason play, with the team sweeping each of their first three opponents.
Idalou fell 7-3 and 15-2 in bi-district, Reagan County was defeated 9-3 and 10-1 in the area round while Shallowater was retired 6-2 and 12-9 in the quarterfinals.
Another similarity between Brock and Bushland can be found in the teams’ bullpens.
Both squads have benefitted from strong pitching, especially in the teams’ respective game ones this postseason.
In the Eagles’ case, the strong game one outings have come from left-hander Cooper Nelson, who in three starts this postseason (one each against Childress, Cisco and Clyde) has combined for 15 strikeouts and eight runs allowed.
On Bushland’s side, right-hander Skyler Jaco has put up a combined 29 strikeouts in three starts (including one strikeout in relief duty in game two against Shallowater) while allowing eight runs in the same span.
“Skyler Jaco is an above average 3A arm that throws a ton of strikes and mixes it up very well,” Hering said.
“He doesn’t beat himself by issuing free passes. We have tried to recreate and simulate what we expect he will be like in practice, to prepare our hitters for this big challenge.
“[With that], I like where we are from an offensive standpoint, we have been seeing the ball well lately and we have executed all parts of our offense a little more consistently this postseason.”
Hering said the Eagles will not switch up their pitching rotation this series, noting that the team’s formula on the mound so far this postseason has been a winning one.
“We have had a pretty good formula working for us this playoff run on the mound as far as our rotation goes,” Hering said.
“Getting game one of the series has been a priority for us, and it puts pressure on the opponent to beat us twice. Cooper Nelson has had good outings to start us off and both Carson Lightfoot and Caleb Satterfield have been extended into starting roles this postseason and I feel confident that either of those guys can win in a game to close out a series.”
Pairing the teams’ strong arms with two offenses which have combined for 109 runs (49 from the Eagles, 60 from the Falcons) through the first three rounds of postseason play, and this week’s regional semifinal series has the potential for a shootout as much as a defensive duel.