One of the perks of winning a district title in the 3A-1A ranks is that it earns the team a bye through the Bi-District round of the playoffs.
This season, the Borger Bulldog (16-11-1) baseball team got to enjoy that break after the team posted a 7-2 record through District 1-3A play to claim the first district baseball title since dropping to 3A.
The road to the district title came with a little drama towards the end of district play as the Bulldogs had to win the district finale against rival Pampa in order to clinch the district title outright and avoid a three-team playoff to figure out post-season seeding.
Winning the district title in his first season leading the team has meant a lot to Bulldog Head Coach Steve Ribera, who commented, “Winning district does mean a lot to me, especially after the first defeat in Perryton. The team really turned it on and began to play to their potential. The final game with Pampa to win the title was one of the best games we have played all year. [There was] good pitching, good defense and timely hitting throughout the line up.”
Outside a playoff warm up game with Bushland last Thursday, it will be two weeks since the Bulldogs played a meaningful game. However, Ribera will be the first to tell you that the team has stay productive in preparing for what will hopefully be a nice playoff run.
Ribera said, “The extra time has allowed us to get our bodies ready for a playoff run that includes getting use to the heat of May. But we have also been able to get some good work out of our bullpen and [have been] getting some good cuts at the plate.”
The Bulldogs will now take on the Pecos Eagles this weekend in a best-of-three 3A Area Round playoff series at the Lubbock Cooper High School Baseball Field. Game one starts tomorrow evening at 7 p.m., with game two beginning at 1 p.m. on Saturday followed by game three if necessary.
Hitting should be one area the team has an advantage against Pecos with a team batting average during the regular season of .331 while racking up 35 homeruns and 194 RBI’s.
Leading the team at the plate during the regular season were senior catcher Brandon Garcia, with a .511 average 11 HRs, 6 2Bs and 47 RBI’s; senior centerfielder Garrett Irwin, .434 average, 9 HRs, 2 3Bs, 8 2Bs, 34 RBIs; senior rightfielder Zach McDonald .378 average, 2 HRs, 7 2Bs. 15 RBIs; and junior shortstop Max Lusk, .374 average, 8 HRs, 3 3Bs, 12 2Bs, 30 RBIs.
As good as the Bulldog hitting may be, there is no question that the key to winning the best of three series with Pecos will come down to how well the team pitches.
Getting the start in game one in the series will be senior Hunter Hertel, who struck out 89 batters on his way to a 9-3 record through the regular season.
Senior Acton Smith, with a 5-3 regular season record, will get the start in game two, while Irwin and junior Chayse Tracy could potentially see time on the mound in relief or in game three.
Of Irwin and Tracy, Ribera commented, “Garrett has been throwing well in practice and could be ready to surprise any time he faces. Chayse will be ready at any time in any game.”
Borger will take on a Pecos team that posted only a 12-17 record during the regular season. However, the Eagles caught on fire a bit this past Saturday to win the final two games in their Bi-District series with Seminole.
“They are sound on the defensive side of the ball, swing the bats real well and are playing with great confidence right now,” said Ribera.
Ribera went on to say that the Eagles’ pitching is comparable to what the Bulldogs have seen in district, leading the coach to feel his team matches up with Pecos real well.
Ribera said, “We are looking forward to a great series and are excited about having the chance to advance in the playoffs.”
The winner of Borger/Pecos will take on the winner of Lubbock Cooper/Presidio next week in the Regional Quarterfinals.