A ranking of ninth in the state to go along with a 30-5 record typically would cause an intimidation factor going into a playoff series for the opposing team.
That could have been the case in Plainview this week, as the mentioned high ranking and great record belongs to the Lubbock Cooper Pirates, the Borger Bulldogs’ opponent in this weekend’s best of three 3A Regional Quarterfinal series.
However, the intimidation factor probably won’t really be there as the two clubs have seen each other several times as former district foes the past two years. The Bulldogs split the series in 2010 against a Pirate team that has several of the same faces they will see this time around.
Even though the split came over a year ago, Borger Head Baseball Coach Steve Ribera understands the factor last year’s win has for the Borger players this weekend, saying, “Splitting with them last year will help our confidence going in but I think getting the ‘playoff jitters’ out last week will be a big boost for us too.”
This past weekend, the Bulldogs (18-12-1) reached the quarterfinal round by sweeping Pecos in two games in a pair of solid defensive contests, 5-4 and 5-2.
In game one of the series, the Bulldogs committed a couple of bad errors. However, the team did a great job having a short term memory on the field by being able to regroup and make several great plays to get the one- run win and carry the momentum into Saturday.
Ribera commented, “We did make some uncharacteristic errors but I think that was a result of the week off and not playing a meaningful game in two weeks. However, we recovered well and Chayse Tracy pulled us out of a couple of bad situations on Friday with big plays on bunts. I am proud of the team pulling each other out of bad situations, from the pitchers to the other defensive players, because that was huge for us.”
The solid play on the field also allowed the Bulldogs to get two complete games from senior pitchers Hunter Hertel and Acton Smith, who will once again go one and two in this weekend’s series with Lubbock Cooper.
That defensive effort and solid pitching will be needed against a good hitting Pirate lineup led by senior outfielder Ethan Kohnle (.490 average with eight homeruns and 49 RBIs) and sophomore shortstop Scotland Church (.376 average with seven homeruns and 35 RBIs.)
Expected to set the bulk of time on the mound for the Pirates will be junior righthander Nolan Savage (8-3, 2.15 ERA and 77 K’s), Church (6-1 with 65 Ks) and junior Jon Chandler Keane (5-0 with 39 Ks).
There is no question trying to compare teams by just looking at scores or stats can be misleading. However, there are several ways the Bulldogs and Pirates match up fairly similar in their line ups, as well as having similar scores against common opponents during the season.
The top of the Bulldog lineup had some good hits against Pecos, including senior Brandon Garcia connecting for two doubles for two RBIs in the second game.
A big difference in the series was the timely hitting of the bottom half of the lineup in both games.
In the series, junior Clay Ellis reached base three times, Tracy twice, while Smith came up with two RBIs and Garth Payton with a big RBI double for the go-ahead run in game one.
Ribera praised the bottom half of the lineup, saying, “The bottom of the lineup has been big for us all year and were huge in both games with Pecos, especially on Friday. Garth Payton’s pinch hit double was a back breaker for their number one pitcher and was a huge lift for our team.”
Ribera added, “I look for the top of the order to swing better this weekend and the other half to keep doing what they do.”
From this round on, there is no question whomever the Bulldogs face, it will be a team that is talented and will take a top-level effort to see Borger advance one step closer to the state finals.
But going into the series, Ribera has confidence in his team getting the job done, saying, “Cooper will swing the bats well and come into the series with a lot of confidence. We will have to play our best to beat them. However, our best is pretty good too, so I look for a great series.”
All three games will take place at Wayland Baptist University in Plainview.
Game one will start tomorrow evening at 7:00 p.m. Game two will begin at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday with game three to follow if necessary.