BEES BUZZ INTO POSTSEASON: 19-3A champ, ninth-ranked Academy begins playoffs in series vs. Groesbeck
Updated: May 10, 2022
PLAYOFF TIME AGAIN: One year ago, Academy center fielder/pitcher John Tomasek played a key role as the fourth-seeded Bumblebees upset District 20-3A champion Franklin in the first round of the Class 3A baseball playoffs. As a senior this season, the Richland College commitment’s hitting and pitching have helped lead ninth-ranked Academy (25-3) to the outright 19-3A championship at 11-1. Coach Garrett Vail's Bees battle the Groesbeck Goats (18-10-1) in a best-of-three bi-district series starting with Game 1 at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Navasota High School. The series will resume at noon Saturday at the Waco ISD sports complex. Tomasek's younger brother, sophomore Luke Tomasek, is an outfielder/infielder for Academy. (File photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
By GREG WILLE
LITTLE RIVER-ACADEMY – When the Academy baseball team advanced to the second round of last season’s Class 3A playoffs as its district’s No. 4 seed, it was viewed as a surprise.
This season, however, an extended run in postseason play is seen as not only possible but expected for the state-ranked Bumblebees (25-3).
Unbeaten against 3A competition since March 25, District 19-3A champion Academy will begin the playoffs by battling the Groesbeck Goats (18-10-1) in a best-of-three bi-district series. Game 1 is at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Navasota High School.
The series will shift to the Waco ISD sports complex on Saturday, with Game 2 starting at noon. If necessary, another game will begin 30 minutes after Game 2 concludes.
The Academy-Groesbeck winner will advance to next week’s area round to play 18-3A No. 2 seed Scurry-Rosser (15-6) or 17-3A No. 3 seed Whitney (15-9). Those teams begin a best-of-three series Friday at Whitney.
The Bees of fourth-year head coach Garrett Vail are No. 9 in the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association’s 3A state rankings and No. 11 in the Diamond Pro/TXHS Top 25 state poll. Academy finished 11-1 in 19-3A to win the championship by two games over No. 14 Cameron Yoe (19-7-1) and Caldwell. The Bees’ only league loss was 4-1 at Caldwell on March 25.
A pair of dramatic comeback victories two weeks ago propelled Academy into position to capture the district crown.
In their home rematch against Caldwell on April 22, the Bees trailed 6-0 in the third inning but stormed back to prevail 9-7 on a two-run, walk-off home run by junior shortstop Lane Ward.
Three days later in Cameron, Academy incurred an 8-1 deficit against Yoe but exploded for seven runs in the sixth, highlighted by senior second baseman Darion Franklin’s tying two-run homer, to produce an 8-8 deadlock. The Bees scored three runs in the eighth and held on for an 11-9 victory.
Academy then secured the outright 19-3A championship last week with wins against Lexington and Florence.
The Bees’ pitching staff is paced by strike-throwing junior right-handers Alex Hoffman and Alex Lawton, along with senior lefty and starting center fielder John Tomasek usually in a late-inning relief role. Lawton pitched a no-hitter in Academy’s 8-0 home win over Rockdale on April 11. Sophomore righty Trey Ward and sophomore lefty Hunter Bruggman also have contributed on the mound.
On offense, Academy is fueled by Franklin, Ward, Richland College verbal commitment Tomasek, Lawton and Hoffman. Sophomore Tyler Burnett and junior Kyler Smith have alternated at catcher and designated hitter, and the lineup also gets contributions from Trey Ward and sophomore left fielder Zane Clark.
Academy traveled to Corsicana last Saturday to challenge 5A fourth-ranked Corsicana in a playoff warmup game. Hard-throwing senior pitcher Zane Petty, a prospect for the Major League Baseball draft, powered the Tigers to an 8-1 win, though the game was close until Academy's defense faltered in the later innings.
Groesbeck finished as 20-3A’s fourth seed, behind champion and No. 5-ranked Franklin (21-2-1), runner-up Fairfield and third seed Elkhart. Franklin looms as a potential opponent for Academy in the Region III quarterfinals.
A year ago, Academy upset district champion Franklin in a bi-district series that went three games before Whitney swept the Bees in an area-round series.
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