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PLAYOFF TIME: Academy, Troy, Cameron Yoe set for postseason play after moving through grueling 19-3A

By GREG WILLE


After advancing through a grueling schedule in District 19-3A, Academy, Troy and Cameron Yoe now are ready to compete in the Class 3A state baseball playoffs.

All three teams will play best-of-three series in the bi-district round.

District runner-up Academy (20-7-1) begins its matchup against 20-3A No. 3 seed Groesbeck (14-8) on Thursday with a 7 p.m. game at Axtell. Game 2 is at 7 p.m. Friday at Corsicana High School, where a third game will be played at noon Saturday if necessary.

League champion Troy (25-3) starts its series against fourth-seeded Buffalo (9-14-2) at 6:30 p.m. at Mary Hardin-Baylor’s Red Murff Field in Belton. Game 2 is at 1 p.m. Saturday in West, with a third game to follow if necessary.

No. 3 seed Yoe (19-10) also begins its series against 20-3A runner-up Fairfield (19-4) on Friday, playing at 5:30 p.m. at Bombers Stadium in Bryan. Game 2 is at the same ballpark at 2 p.m. Saturday, followed by Game 3 if needed.

The Academy-Groesbeck winner advances to next week’s area round to play 18-3A champion Malakoff (18-8) or 17-3A fourth seed Whitney (13-11-1). The Troy-Buffalo victor moves on to battle 18-3A runner-up Corsicana Mildred (15-4) or 17-3A third seed West (20-6). The Yoe-Fairfield survivor will play 17-3A co-champion Maypearl (20-7) or 18-3A fourth seed Blooming Grove (8-12-1).

Ranked No. 11 in the state, Troy lost its district opener 12-7 at home against Academy on March 14 but then went 12-1 in league action to win the championship by two games over Academy and Yoe. The Trojans of longtime coach Steve Sebesta recorded a crucial win in their rematch with Academy, edging the Bumblebees 3-2 in eight innings in an April 8 game played at Lake Belton.

Troy went 4-2 against 19-3A’s other playoff teams, including a sweep of fourth-place Lorena (20-7, 9-5), whose No. 18-ranked Leopards will face No. 2 Franklin (25-1-1) in a first-round series.

Troy’s standout pitchers are sophomore right-hander Joseph McMurtry, junior righty Peyten Crawford and junior lefty Chase Fricke. The Trojans’ key players also include seniors Katon Jimenez and Watson Washburn, juniors Lance Hitt, Kadyn Martinez, Cannon Negron and Cooper Valle and sophomore Reed Ketcham.

Academy couldn’t capture its second consecutive 19-3A championship, but head coach Garrett Vail’s No. 16-ranked Bees did improve their postseason position by earning two wins in Cameron last Saturday. Academy’s regular-season finale at home against Rockdale on Friday was rained out because of wet field conditions and moved to Saturday afternoon at The Yards of Cameron, Yoe’s home ballpark that features an artificial-turf playing surface.

The upset-minded Tigers owned a 2-1 lead in the fifth, but in the bottom of the inning junior Trey Ward hit a tying sacrifice fly and senior Lance Wille hit the go-ahead run-scoring single to give the Bees a 3-2 advantage.

Senior right-hander Alex Lawton pitched a complete game to secure Academy’s one-run win, locking up a top-three seed for the Bees thanks in part to Rogers’ 5-3 victory over Lorena earlier Saturday in another makeup game played in Cameron.

After tying for second place with 10-4 records and splitting their head-to-head series, Academy and Yoe then played a tiebreaker game late Saturday afternoon. Using a balanced offensive attack, the Bees jumped out to a 7-1 lead in the third inning against the host Yoemen and rode the complete-game pitching of senior right-hander Alex Hoffman to record an 8-2 victory and seize the No. 2 playoff seed.

Academy’s primary contributors include seniors Lane Ward, Kyler Smith, Hoffman, Lawton and Wille and juniors Trey Ward, Cooper Chase, Zane Clark and Luke Tomasek.

Yoe was in contention to grab a top-two seed in 19-3A, but on back-to-back days the Yoemen lost 14-2 to Troy and 8-2 to Academy to drop to the third seed.

First-year head coach Nick De La Cerda and Yoe will take on a No. 24-ranked Fairfield team that placed second behind Franklin in 20-3A. The Eagles went 12-2 in district, losing 4-2 and 9-0 to the Lions.

Senior right-handers Landen Greene and Ryan Host pace the Yoemen’s pitching staff. Yoe’s other leading players include seniors Dillan Akin, Marino Cardona and Armando Reyes and junior Braylan Drake.

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