By BRYAN URBACH
The Dogwood Circle baseball and softball teams are in action once again as they compete in the playoffs.
For baseball, teams are getting set to start the first round in the Bi-District round, and for softball, the area round is almost under way.
The Lady Mustangs will be taking on Avery at Longview Pine Tree High School on Friday night at 7 p.m.
It will be a one-game series in a do-or-die match for the Lady Mustangs.
Slocum coach David Ives said even though he knows Avery will be a tough matchup, the Lady Mustangs have practiced well and will be ready for the competition.
“They’re (Avery) a very solid team,” Ives said. “I know they got second place out of District 19. I watched them play some last week, and they’re very solid. They hit the ball well, they have a good pitcher and they play good defense. It’s really just what you would expect to run into once you get into the playoffs.”
In a winner-take-all situation, strange things can happen in those type of ballgames. Ives said the Lady Mustangs have been focused and know that they have to keep bringing a playoff mentality to each game.
“Any time you get into the playoffs, you have to play well,” Ives said. “We just have to continue doing what we’ve been doing. We’ve been hot and cold throughout the season so far. We started off district real hot at the plate and then we kind of cooled down a little bit. I’m hoping that we can pick that back up and take care of what we need to take care of at the plate. We have to play good defense and have good pitching.”
Ives said that playing in the playoffs is a whole different animal than playing in the regular season. In the regular season, teams are playing to build up their records to be able to have a good spot in the playoffs. Now that the playoffs are in action, Ives said the Lady Mustangs are going to have to step up and play their best.
“In playoff games, the pressure is there because if you lose, you go home,” Ives said. “There’s definitely pressure put on each team, but luckily, I have a good group of girls that work hard and come out ready to give their best. You work all year long to get to the playoffs and when you get here, you just hope that you come out and play your best.”
The Lady Tigers, after winning their first game 7-4, will take on Harleton in a three-game series starting at 6:30 p.m. tonight in Lindale.
Neches comes into the match looking to keep up momentum and win another playoff series.
Neches coach Andy Snider said he knows the Lady Tigers will have a tough series ahead of them, but are prepared to take on Harleton.
“They’re going to be a very good squad,” Snider said. “They’re a seasoned playoff group who has kind of fallen underneath the radar as far as being ranked. They went pretty deep into the playoffs last year, I believe they went to the regional semifinals or finals, so, they’re a solid opponent.
“They’re going to hit the ball well and run the bases,” he added. “They have two good pitchers, too.”
The Lady Tigers preferred a one-game series over a three-game series because Snider said anything can happen in a one-game series.
“I expect our girls to come out and compete in this series,” Snider said. “I think they’re going to put out their best effort and then whatever happens, happens. I don’t look for them to just to lay down and let Harleton run over the top of them. I look for them to come out and compete and just have fun playing the game.”
At this point in the playoffs, Snider said he expects more than just one person to have an impact on the upcoming three-game series.
“I expect the whole team to step up,” Snider said. “Especially the seniors. I expect them to be my leaders. They’ve been leading all year, and I look for them to continue that aspect. And our pitcher is a sophomore, and I want her to not put so much pressure on herself. She’s capable of performing at a high level, and we look forward to her being able to do that.”
Another Dogwood Circle team will be facing Harleton.
Tonight at 6 p.m., Cayuga’s baseball team will take on Harleton at Arp High School. They will continue the three-game series at 5 p.m. Friday, followed by a game three if necessary 30 minutes after game two ends.
Cayuga coach Micah Blackmon said he expects Harleton to be good competition for the Wildcats in their first round matchup.
“From all I’ve heard, they’re going to be a good team,” Blackmon said. “They’re coming out of Carlisle’s district and that’s their only two district losses was to Carlisle who is ranked No. 2 in the state. They’re (Harleton) going to be fundamental and hit the ball. We just have to make plays on it. They’re going to have a pitcher who will pitch some tough strikes.”
Blackmon said he expects his team to come out strong against Harleton because of the strong practice they’ve had for the past week and a half.
“The intensity level from here on out has definitely gone up,” Blackmon said. “I think one guy that will be a key for us will be Colt Laughrey. If he can keep swinging the bat the way he’s capable of like the past two weeks, we’ll be in good shape. He’s the guy that will be a huge key for us.”
For the Wildcats, it will be a game-time decision for tonight’s pitcher and Friday’s game two, the pitcher will for sure be Jason Johnson.
The Palestine Wildcats will face Diboll starting at 7 p.m. tonight in Diboll.
In the three-game series, Friday’s game will be at Palestine at 7:30 p.m. and if needed, there will be a coin flip for the site of game three.
Palestine coach Austin Evans said he knows what to expect for the Wildcats in their first Bi-District game.
“Diboll is a great team,” Evans said. “We expect it to be at least two action-packed games of really good pitching and defense. Both ball clubs are really similar, so we know there’s going to be a lot of strikes pitched and great defense.”
Early in the season, Palestine took part in a game in the GlobeLife Park in Arlington (Rangers’ Ballpark), and Evans said that game experience as well as the tournaments early on prepared the team for the playoffs.
“I think the focus level is going to be a lot higher,” Evans said. “These kids have been in some intense games so far this year. We were able to find games early on that helped us know what it feels like to have that playoff game atmosphere. Those games were really good for us. Even beating Fairfield in the last game of the season for second place in district was great for our guys. We’re ready for this.”