Jason Della Rosa, Herald Democrat
GUNTER – The Tigers knew they were good last season, and they proved it by reaching the state championship for the first time in 20 years, before losing to the state champions before a temporary loss in the finals.
And from the moment the ball was returned to the center to get rid of Gunter, a year-long journey back to the quarterfinals began as the underlying students were off the field.
The Tigers would not consider it possible for seven starters to return and the reinforcements were ready to join the senior line-up, and they were able to return to this point despite the goal being on their backs.
“You have to be frozen,” said GHS coach Daryl Hellman. “A good team, the coach puts pressure on himself. The expectations are there. ”
They had to overcome the first wounds. The pressure of a season that has been almost perfect. Gunter has worked hard for the last 364 days to make it look easy, but more importantly, to get another crack in a state championship.
“We were excited to be here last year. It was a great thing to get there, “said senior left-back Kaden Rigsby.
The same could be said for Tigreen’s opponent Gunter (36-1) against Corpus Christi London (25-13) in a Class 3A state semi-final at Dell Diamond’s Round Rock on Friday at 9am.
“Our seniors want this,” Hellman said. “Conversations, perspectives have not changed. It’s about staying true to the game. If we’re lucky, we’ll have two more games left. “
Brock (35-3) and Diboll (38-4) are measured in the other semi-final and the winners will advance to the state championship game on Saturday at 9am.
“I felt like Brock was the first team in Region I and we were in the conversation with the main team in Region II,” Hellman said. “Down the V region, London had another good year, but as Pottsboro was with us they were in a neighborhood with the Bishop.”
London suffered even worse against defending champions Malakoff than Gunter’s 4-3 defeat in the semi-finals. The Pirates had a 7-4 lead at the bottom of the seventh and went up that side with two playoffs for the title but were unable to close the deal.
Malakoff loaded the bases before the second round and then scored four goals, using a single blow, to secure an 8-7 victory.
“We were able to win the whole thing,” Hellman said. “They’ll have a chip on their shoulders to find out how things went.”
While the Tigers return almost the full lineup, the Pirates can do better because London returns from the group of eight champions. Among them, senior player Kade Budd, who beat Brocki in the semi-finals to take the title match in London, is 9-2 this spring and is a likely candidate to face the Tigers.
Hellman will go with juvenile Isaac Villanueva in the semifinals, as he did last season against Malakoff, 14-1. That would leave senior Riekkhen Bostick on the starting lineup on Saturday with a 13-0 lead.
“My job is to take it to the next round,” Villanueva said. “Anything can happen, we play as much as we can. It’s what we’ve been doing all season. ‘
The lineup is also stable: one regular does not bat below .270 and six at least .320. Cade Dodson leads with an average of .515, Trey Oblas with .480 and Carter Layton with an average of .400.
“You should play at your best this time of year. We expect that on Friday, “Hellman said.” You have to put the runners on and score them. “
London finished 2021 with a 33-6 record, but this version of the Pirates struggled in the regular season, losing five games before entering the playoffs and a 5-5 record after the first 10 games.
After the season, London lost only once: a regional semi-final match against Bishop District IV, tied at the top of the 30-3A standings and got revenge for losing two of the three, including a draw for the main standings. . London won 3-1 and lost 4-3 to a 3-2 loss to Bishop in the regional final for the second season in a row.
Half of London’s eight post-season victories were in a single bout and another two.
To get to the state, the Pirates pulled off that third-half game thanks to a two-run homer from Jayden Martinez, while Jacob Gonzales and Mason Arisp joined the RBI in pairs.
“We’re both good teams. We both know it’s going to be a fight, “Rigsby said. “We both want it wrong.”