Tears of joy and disappointment will likely flow Friday night after Linden-Kildare or James Bowie wins the Region III-2A Baseball Championship at Texas High’s Tigers Field.
Both head coaches agree that there’s no favorite going into this best-of-three historical series, which begins Thursday at 7 p.m., involving the 17-2A champion Tigers, and 17-2A runnerup Pirates. The two teams split their two district showdowns. The Tigers won in five innings at Simms, 13-3. The Pirates returned the favor later in Linden.
Obviously, the Tigers and Pirates have been impressive in the playoffs to reach the regional finals. In fact, James Bowie has won 14 consecutive games since starting district play with loses to Detroit, Rivercrest and L-K.
“I’ll say this, we’re playing with a lot of confidence,” said James Bowie coach Eddy May. “We’re a lot different team since the first round of district play. Our kids have settled into their roles, and doing a great job. I think we’re as good as anyone in our region. I’m sure Linden-Kildare has improved, and feels the same way.”
Some believe Linden-Kildare is the favorite
Some feel the Tigers should be favorites since they won district, and they’ve got a state baseball championship in the school’s history book. This will be James Bowie’s third regional final, and Pirates didn’t win the first two. L-K in fact has been to state more than once, but let’s remember the Pirates have been to the playoffs 17 of the last 19 seasons.
“We’ve got to do what we’ve done all year,” said L-K coach John Roberts. “Our pitchers have to compete in the strike zone; we’ll have to play solid defense; and offensively put the ball in play on a consistent basis.”
Ironically, the Tigers’ hitters have no faced James Bowie ace Evan Barron this season.
“There’s no doubt that Barron is really good,” said Roberts. “In the last round against Woden we saw a kid that’s a lot like him, throwing in the mid-80s. That should help us some. We also played at a tournament in Louisiana earlier, and saw a couple of guys that could throw hard.
“One through nine in our batting order we do a pretty good job of putting the ball in play. We’ve got to battle at the plate. I tell my kids all the time that foul balls are not a bad thing, and to keep working the count.”
Kunze, Alford top Linden-Kildare hitters
L-K (18-8) features two outstanding hitters in first baseman Nic Kunze and shortstop Dalton Alford. Both are hitting in the .430s according to Roberts, and Kunze has hit nine home runs.
“If I remember right, Kunze hit two homers against us in our first meeting,” said May. “We know who their best hitters are, and we’re going to be careful with them. Evan has more than that hard stuff. He’s also got good off-speed pitches. We expect Evan to pitch well. We also have to play good defense and make plays just like we have to past few weeks. Our kids are just trying to do things right, and have fun.”
Joining Kunze and Alford in the Tigers’ lineup will be Jacob Owen at third; Duece Shuler behind the plate; Mason Johnson in center; Caleb Cunningham in left; Colton Neville in right; Trent Wert on the mound, and Chase Bynum at second.
The Pirates (18-4) will counter with Dalton McBride in center; Whitt Rogers at first; Brandon Obenoskey at designated hitter; Slade Burnett at second; Zane Dewberry at third; Evan Williams in right; Tyler Crabtree in left; Cason Braley at shortstop, and Garrett Brown catching.
The second game of this series will be Friday at Texas High (5 p.m.) If a third game is necessary it will follow 30 minutes after Friday’s first game. It will be an emotional series. It will also be surprising if there are no tears shed on both sides.
The three other region championship game feature New Deal against Albany; Valley Mills vs. Windthorst; and Refugio faces Dollardsville Big Sandy.