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The NCAA basketball tournaments’ March Madness may be almost over, but for three Stephens County baseball teams, tournament time is just getting started.
As they move into the second half of their seasons, Comanche, Empire and Marlow will all hit the road Thursday with tourney titles in mind– the Indians at the Lake Country Conference Tournament, the Bulldogs at the Temple Tournament and the Outlaws at the Jones Tournament.
Comanche at LCC Tournament
The Indians will be hoping for stronger results than its last tournament experience when it begins play Thursday afternoon.
In the Pauls Valley Tournament two weeks, the Indians dropped its first two games by a combined score of 24-8 before recovering with a 4-3 win against Marietta.
One thing Comanche (4-9) has going for them is their play in neutral sites, as they have gone 2-2 in those games while posting a 1-4 record at home and 1-3 record in other road contests.
The competition at LCC will be no pushover, as teams like No. 7 Davis and No. 16 Sulphur will be in attendance.
In their first two meetings, the Wolves overwhelmed the Indians, winning 8-0 and 11-4.
Comanche, who has dropped five of its last six, will turn to pitcher Kale Reed, who has kept the Indians in games with power at the plate and strong performances on the mound.
Empire at Temple Tournament
After opening the season with a 3-6 record, the Bulldogs have started to catch on, winning three of its last five contests and scoring an average of 15 runs per game in those victories.
A key for the team in every game is closing innings, Bulldogs head coach Caleb Cole said.
“I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had two outs in an inning and we end up letting in runs,” Cole said. “We’re a much better team if we can get out of those situations.”
The team also comes in with recent tournament experience, splitting two games at the Apache Tournament last week.
With a handful of first year players including freshman Mace Robinson and outfielder Freddy Larson, Cole envisions the team improving as it gets more experience under its belt.
“All we need to do is win a couple games and gain some confidence and we can be in every game,” Cole said. “We’ve already played teams close and once we take that next step I expect this team to win.”
Empire will like its chances should it face off against tournament host Temple, a team it beat 18-7 last week on the road.
Marlow at Jones Tournament
If there’s one team that Class 3A fear these days, it’s the Outlaws, winners of 14 of their last 15 games.
Marlow had a 14-game winning streak broken up by Class 4A foe Blanchard this week, but has played its best baseball since early April.
A big part of the team’s success has been senior Wakley Bergner’s efforts on the mound and junior center fielder Kelby Richardson’s effort in the lead off slot. Bergner has won all six of his starts and boasts an ERA of less than two, while Richardson has put the ball in play early and often, owning a batting average above .400.
The type of team that Marlow has struggled against is exactly what it will face in the tournament’s opening round: a Class 4A opponent. The Outlaws’ only three losses this year all came on the road to 4A foes and will be challenged again versus Class 4A No. 18 Bethel (11-4).
Outlaws coach Jeff Brewer didn’t make much of the team’s loss to Blanchard, attributing the loss to the team’s three errors in the game.
“We didn’t necessarily play bad, but had a few blunders but good teams in the top of 4A are going to beat you when you do that,” Brewer said. “When you’re able to do the little things right, baseball will be good to you and recently we’ve been doing that.”