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  • Greg Wille

STRENGTH VS. STRENGTH: 19-3A squads Troy, Academy, Yoe, Lorena challenge 17-3A quartet in area round


District 19-3A baseball has been extremely competitive this season. Playoff teams Troy, Academy, Cameron Yoe and Lorena all were in the top 18 of the final Class 3A state rankings, and all four squads then validated that status last week by winning best-of-three series in the bi-district playoffs.

This week, 19-3A’s battle-tested clubs will put their experience to the test as they seek to advance to the Region III quarterfinals. All four teams are set for best-of-three series in the area round against 17-3A squads.

No. 11-ranked and 19-3A champion Troy (27-3) battles 17-3A third seed West (22-6) beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday at Waco Midway, site of the entire series. Game 2 is at 7 p.m. Friday, with a third game to be played at noon Saturday if necessary.

No. 16 Academy (22-7-1), the 19-3A runner-up, takes on 17-3A fourth seed Whitney (15-11-1) starting at 6 p.m. Thursday at Axtell. Game 2 begins at 4:30 p.m. Friday in Axtell, with a third game scheduled for noon Saturday at Corsicana High School if needed.

No. 17 Yoe (21-11), 19-3A’s No. 3 seed, challenges 17-3A co-champion and No. 12-ranked Maypearl (22-7) beginning at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Axtell, which will host the whole series. Game 2 is at 2 p.m. Saturday, with a third game to follow 30 minutes later if necessary.

No. 18 Lorena (22-8), 19-3A’s fourth seed, will match up with 17-3A co-champion and No. 2 Grandview (17-17-1) starting at 7 p.m. Thursday at Whitney, which will host the entire series. Game 2 is at 7 p.m. Friday, and the if-needed third game is set for 1 p.m. Saturday.

In next week’s Region III quarterfinals, the Troy-West winner will meet the Lorena-Grandview winner, while the Academy-Whitney victor will play the Yoe-Maypearl survivor.

Troy cruised past Buffalo in bi-district action, winning 11-2 and 7-1 behind starting pitchers Joseph McMurtry and Gage Richardson, respectively. Reed Ketcham, Keaton Mach and Watson Washburn led the offensive attack.

Coach Steve Sebesta’s Trojans have won 11 consecutive games since their 4-3 loss to Yoe on April 4. Troy’s only other 19-3A loss was against Academy in the district opener. The Trojans take on a West team that dominated Corsicana Mildred 8-1 and 10-0 in bi-district. West’s Trojans went 6-4 in 17-3A play, finishing three games behind Grandview and Maypearl.

Academy swept bi-district opponent Groesbeck 15-0 and 4-2 in a rematch of a 2022 first-round matchup that coach Garrett Vail’s Bumblebees swept. Pitcher Alex Hoffman dominated the series opener in Axtell, where a barrage of triples and doubles powered a balanced Academy lineup that got contributions from seniors Hoffman, Alex Lawton, Lane Ward, Kyler Smith and Lance Wille and juniors Cooper Chase, Luke Tomasek and Trey Ward.

In Game 2 at Corsicana, the Goats took a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning against starting pitcher Lawton, but the Bees responded with a three-run fourth to grab the lead. Tomasek relieved Lawton in the fifth and finished the game for the save, aided by two stellar defensive plays by junior right fielder Zane Clark.

Academy is meeting Whitney in the area round of the playoffs for the third straight season. The Wildcats swept the Bees in 2021, then came back from a series-opening 6-2 defeat to post 8-5 and 5-4 wins a year ago. This season’s Whitney squad finished fourth in 17-3A at 4-6.

Yoe went into the playoffs following back-to-back district defeats to Troy (14-2) and Academy (8-2), then lost 7-5 to Fairfield in the opening game of its bi-district series. However, the Yoemen of first-year coach Nick De La Cerda proved to be a resilient bunch.

Needing two wins to prolong its season, Yoe beat Fairfield 4-1 and 1-0 in Bryan to advance to the area round. Landen Greene was the winning pitcher in both games – as the starter in Game 2 and in relief of fellow senior Ryan Host in the finale. Host pitched five innings and delivered a walk-off run-scoring single.

The Yoemen now clash with No. 12 Maypearl, which swept Blooming Grove 5-4 and 14-0 last week. The Panthers gained 17-3A’s No. 1 seed by beating Grandview 4-1 in a first-place tiebreaker game after the teams split their district series.

Lorena pulled off a big upset – according to the state rankings, at least – last week when it knocked out No. 2 Franklin (26-3-1) in a series that went the distance. The Leopards won the first and third games by 4-3 scores, sandwiched around a 2-0 Lions victory in Game 2.

Lorena went a combined 4-0 in 19-3A against Academy and Yoe but dropped to fourth place in the district standings at 9-5 after getting swept by Troy along with losing once to fifth-place Rogers and twice to sixth-place Rockdale.

This week, the Leopards of coach Brandon Graves challenge Grandview, which needed three games to advance past Eustace. The Zebras wrapped 7-1 victories in the opener and finale around a 4-3 loss in Game 2. Grandview started slowly this season but tied Maypearl for the 17-3A championship at 9-1 before losing the tiebreaker duel for the league’s top playoff seed.

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