On Thursday evening, the Borger Bulldogs (9-13) will have the rare luxury of opening up the playoffs on their home field when they take on the Levelland Lobos (21-7) in game one of a best-of-three series in the 3A Bi-District Playoff Round.
The Bulldogs and Lobos are not complete strangers on the baseball diamond, as the two teams were district foes prior to the last realignment back in 2009 and 2010.
In 2010, the Bulldogs won the first meeting between the two teams in Levelland. But the Lobos got the last laugh by beating the Bulldogs in Borger, behind a great pitching performance behind lefty Tony Reyes. That loss to the Lobos proved to be a big factor in a good Bulldog team just miss out on claiming a playoff berth in the 2010 season.
A lot has changed for both clubs over the past two years, but the Lobos still have Reyes, who has established himself as one of the better pitchers in the South Plains area the past two seasons.
Reyes gets a lot of attention, but the Lobos are not a one-man team, with Justin Waddell and Chris Muniz giving the team a total of three solid pitchers on top of the mound. Throughout the season KJ Hurn, Alex Rodriguez, Preston Carpenter, Reyes, and Waddell have each come up with big hits for the Lobos at the plate and will give the team several solid bats the Bulldogs’ pitching staff and defense will have to deal with out on the field.
Levelland enters the playoffs with an impressive overall record and will put a good team out on the field. But the Lobos were 6-4 in District 2-3A play, which includes a loss to Lamesa last week, proving the Lobos are beatable if the Bulldogs limit their errors and come out aggressive at the plate.
Against common opponents, Borger lost to Bushland 10-5 and 3-2 prior to district play, while the Lobos fell 18-8 in early March. In games with Pampa, the Bulldogs won two of their three meetings with the Harvesters, while Levelland beat Pampa 16-7 on March 16th.
Entering Thursday, Borger Head Baseball Coach Steve Ribera feels the two teams appear to be fairly even, saying, “Saying we are pretty even sounds fair. It really depends on which team shows up for us. If the kids want to continue the season and will play with the heart that we have seen from them, then I like our chances.”
The Bulldogs enter the playoffs as a team that has gotten better throughout the season, including posting a 6-3 record in District 1-3A play.
Max Lusk has led the Bulldogs at the plate throughout the season hitting around .460 with three home runs and leading the team in RBIs. But in district play, the Bulldog bats have stepped up to come up with big hits from Clay Ellis, Chayse Tracy, Colton Hunter, Grant Boren, Kota Dillard, and Hunter Gray. The production has given Borger the ability to move runners around the bases from the top to the bottom of the lineup.
On the mound, the Bulldogs spent district play depending on Garth Payton and Tracy to carry the load on the mound and will expect the duo to go toe-to-toe against the Lobos in games one and two. If the series goes to a third game, Lusk, Hunter and Chance Yeager could be the arms the Bulldogs use to win the series. But as of Tuesday afternoon, Ribera was uncertain how he plans to manage his pitchers in the series.
As far as the key to winning the series, Ribera stressed the importance of coming out focused and playing at a high level, saying, “We need to play at the level that we played at against Perryton in our first match up. That team will beat a lot of teams on any given day. As I have told them, when we are focused and have a common goal, we can be pretty good.”
Game one between Levelland and Borger will get underway at 7:00 p.m. tomorrow evening at Huber Park. The series will move to Levelland on Friday with game two beginning at 5:00 p.m. followed by game three if necessary.
The winner of the series will take on Seminole in the 3A Area Playoff Round.