It’s the halfway point of the 2017 District 10-3A baseball race and both Howe and Van Alstyne are in good shape as the playoff run begins in earnest.
It actually begins in Lone Oak and Whitewright as these two head into the final couple of weeks of the regular season.
A one-word simplified description of the top three teams would go something like this: Howe, strong hitting, Farmersville, deep pitching and Van Alstyne, sound fundamentals.
Well, those are two words, but you get the picture.
Heading into the second half Howe and Farmersville were tied at the top with 5-1 records, while Van Alstyne is just one game away at 4-2.
Both local teams have favorable schedules down the stretch, with their final two games coming on the home field.
Howe will close out the season hosting the Panthers and Leonard, and Van Alstyne will be at Forrest Moore Park for Leonard and Commerce games.
The Bulldogs have an overall record of 13-5 as they begin the final six-game stretch and they have a team batting average of .367 after those 18 games.
Junior shortstop Peyton Reagan leads the club with a .557 mark, and on March 31 he was the Texoma area’s leading hitter.
Senior Brennan Ross was a Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association All-state pick in 2016 and he was ranked high in the Association’s pre-season list as well.
Ross excels at the leadoff spot in the lineup with a .516 on-base percentage.
He has 17 stolen bases in as many attempts and he has drawn 11 walks in 64 plate appearances this year.
Sophomore Dyson Dillard leads the team with seven doubles and is batting .377 in his first varsity season.
Seniors Taylor Hartsfield and Matt Griffin are batting .368 and .361 respectively, and each has a home run this season. Sophomore Mason Riggs is the Bulldogs’ leading pitcher.
Riggs has worked just over 31 innings in the teams’ first 18 games and given up just 19 hits and six earned runs, while striking out 42.
Hartsfield and Reagan have shared the number two spot in the rotation and Griffin, a big lefty, closes games out from the bullpen.
Van Alstyne takes a completely different approach to the game, using sound fundamentals to get the job done. They have an overall record of 10-5-3 for the season.
The Panthers closed out the first half of league play with back-to-back, error-less ballgames. The team likes to manufacture runs with their speed and savvy on the base paths and junior Chase Wilson is an ideal, first-spot hitter for that role.
Wilson has been successful on 10-of-12 attempted steals, and the team is 50-of-59 in thefts for the season.
Power? That’s in limited quantity for the Panthers as they, or more specifically, Tyler Wilson has the only home run of the season.
Senior Luke Hundt, the reigning Offensive Player of the Year from last season, is hitting at a .439 clip through the first 18 games of the Panthers’schedule.
The Panthers have just 18 extra base hits for those games.
The Panthers had struggled in the early games of district play, hitting just .139 in those contests. A big night against Commerce has moved that team average back above the Mendoza line.
It’s been well documented in these pages about the pitching situation at Van Alstyne as the entire staff from the 2016 state championship game run had to be replaced.
Junior Rhett Gallagher has stepped into the number one role and in just over 31 innings, Gallagher has fanned 49 batters. He has an earned run average of less than one per game.
Junior Hunter Hutchison, sophomore Chandler David and freshman Sam Tormos are battling for that number two role.
Junior Jordan Velekei has worked just over 12 innings, all in relief, and done a very credible job in that position.
Farmersville, with seniors Lyle Hibbitts and Chase Hacker on the mound, has a definite edge in experience pitching.
Howe will travel to Farmersville on April 13 after losing a 9-4 game at home earlier this season.
Van Alstyne, a 2-0 winner over the Farmers on March 17, will host the Farmers on April 11.
It will be an exciting two weeks of high school baseball on the agenda as we wrap up the 2017 regular season.