I’m going to be honest: I have spent 30 minutes staring at my computer screen, trying my best to come up with a creative “lede” for this column. You know — a punchy paragraph that will capture readers’ attention and make them want to continue reading (A skill that you learn on the first day of Journalism 101),
Unfortunately, it appears I have exhausted all of my creative juices at the moment. So, I am going to break a few journalism rules and skip right to the crux of this column.
On Friday, Tivy baseball will begin a three-game series with old rival Alamo Heights in the area round of the Class 5A playoffs in Jourdanton. This upcoming weekend should be a lot of fun, even if the games have to be played in Jourdanton.
If you are still reading, you are probably asking yourself two questions: 1) Is Alamo Heights any good? and 2) What are Tivy’s chances to win the series? I’m going to attempt to answer both.
Yes, the Mules have a good team. There’s a reason they won District 27-5A and rallied from a Game 1 loss to clinch a three-game series against Uvalde in the bi-district round. And yes, I think the Antlers have a good chance to beat the Mules and advance to the regional quarterfinals. They just have to play well.
I scoured Maxpreps, Gamechanger and www.mysanantonio.com for stats on the Mules, but it proved to be a fruitless endeavor. So, I attended Tivy’s practice on Wednesday and obtained a brief scouting report from coach Chris Russ.
Here’s what I discovered: The Mules aren’t exactly the 2001 Seattle Mariners, but are good enough to give Tivy problems. Their pitchers aren’t overpowering — the velocity on their fastballs reach 82 miles per hour — but they succeed at mixing their off-speed pitches with their fastball. And their first six batters in their lineup are difficult outs at the plate.
“We definitely have to be on our A-game,” Russ said. “We can’t take them lightly, and it’s going to be a rivalry, so anything can happen in a rivalry. We have to be ready to go. They won their district, and are playing well right now. It ought to be a good series.”
And with any good series comes equally good storylines. I’m going to list three.
1. Can Brady Delgado keep pitching at a high level?
It’s difficult to find words to describe how good Delgado has been on the mound this season.
Fortunately, I don’t have to use any words. I can just log on to GameChanger (the platform Tivy uses to keep stats) and share Delgado’s numbers.
They are rather impressive. The senior hurler has posted a 1.95 ERA in 61 innings; 67 percent of his pitches have been strikes; he has tossed a first-pitch strike in 66 percent of his at-bats this year, and his strike out-to-walk ratio is 5.43.
He delivered another gem last Thursday, striking out seven of the first 10 batters during the Antlers’ 3-1 loss to Austin LBJ in game 1. Even though, he didn’t earn the win, he ultimately helped Tivy win the series. Because he was able to pitch 5.2 innings, the Antlers had all four of their remaining pitchers (Cole Miears, Travis White, Coleson Abel and Colten Drake) available for Game 2 and Game 3.
If Delgado produces another special performance on Friday, the Antlers have a good opportunity to win Game 1. More importantly, they will have four rested pitchers when they try to close the series on Saturday. Having a bunch of good pitchers available to pitch in must-win games is always a good development.
“I feel good about where we are at on the mound, and defensively,” Russ said. “We just have to make sure we get some clutch hits here and there.”
And speaking of clutch hits..
2. Can Tivy’s role players continue to play at a high level?
Delgado has been a hurler who can hit, or he’s been hitter who can hurl, depending on your perspective.
Regardless, he’s delivered at the plate this year, slashing .410/.516/.630 with 15 extra-base hits. But he uncharacteristically struggled during Tivy’s series against LBJ,
mustering just one hit in nine at-bats.
“He hit some balls hard,” Russ said. “He just didn’t have much luck in that last series.”
His bad luck ultimately didn’t matter. Several of his teammates delivered some big hits to help Tivy advance. Stoney Rhodes snapped out of a six-game hitless streak to smack three hits during Tivy’s 12-2 win in Game 3. Coleson Abel flexed at the plate on Saturday, posting seven hits in eight at-bats. And Cooper Duennenberg recorded three hits in nine at-bats during the weekend to help the Antlers survive in the first round.
The Antlers will need those players to sustain that production this weekend. It’s already been established that the Antlers possess the defense and pitching depth to make a deep postseason run. They are even more dangerous when they are stringing together hits.
“A bunch of different guys stepped up for us,” Russ said. “Brady is normally the guy who carries us, but guys picked him up these last series. Hopefully, that keeps going, but I hope Brady will have a good series this weekend. I think he will.”
3. Will Tivy continue to experience bad weather?
I’m actually a big fan of rain. Oftentimes, it gives me a good excuse not to go outside and exercise.
But rain isn’t good when you are trying to play a baseball game. Oftentimes, it’s the reason you have to play in Jourdanton instead of playing somewhere nice with good restaurants.
The reason the Antlers are playing in Jourdanton is because the forecast predicts heavy rain this weekend, and the high school’s field has an artificial playing surface. But, even playing a game on Friday isn’t a sure thing at the moment. The forecast calls for an 80 percent chance of thunderstorms in the booming metropolis of Jourdanton. If Game 1 gets cancelled, the Antlers will play a one-game series on Saturday.
Inclement weather impacted Tivy’s playoff schedule last weekend. The Antlers’ Game 1 against LBJ in Kerrville was postponed for an hour due to thunderstorms. Game 2 in Austin was moved to a Saturday double-header in Georgetown due to heavy rain.
The Antlers were able to overcome the elements last series. We will see if they have to do it again this weekend.