MAYPEARL — Maypearl High School's varsity baseball team lost key senior talent — namely, lights out ace Dakota Boll — and may have gotten better and more deadly.
The Panthers moved another step toward proving that theorem Thursday at MHS Panther Field after shutting out Rice High School 11-0 to the tune of Dakota Davis' near no-hitter.
His one-hit performance followed Lonnie Brooks' two-hitter during Maypearl's district opener on Tuesday.
"Good teams can pitch," said Brian Bilbrey, the Panthers' head baseball coach. "To do what we want to do this year starts with pitching. It will be what determines how far we will be able to go. We are fortunate to start off 2-0 in the district because we had good pitching."
Behind the arms of Brooks and Davis and the RBI-producing at-bats from Brooks (2), Robert Pinter (3), Chase Reeher (1), Kenneth McGinn (1) and Sam Taylor (1) the Panthers outscored Keene and Rice High Schools 24-1.
Against Rice, though, they brought the full force of their talented lineup to bear. Maypearl logged 14 hits in 25 at-bats and a 46.88 Quality At-Bat percentage as well as drove in nine runs and struck out twice.
Every player from Davis to Tanir Horton had at least one hit and Brooks, Pinter, Luis Dermas and Cole Maxwell had two or more. Pinter, who led the Panthers in hits and RBI, finished 3-for-4 from the plate and drove in three runs.
Two of Pinter's three RBI came via a second-inning line drive double that scored Maxwell and Taylor. The Panthers' red-hot batting and lockdown pitching, however, was a night-and-day change from six consecutive losses to Brock, Canton, Decatur, Fort Worth Christian, George West and Paradise High Schools.
They lost 15-0 to George West, 8-0 to Fort Worth Christian and 10-3 to Decatur.
"Those tournaments were filled with talented and state-ranked teams," Bilbrey said. We scheduled those games so we could play that caliber of teams. It's the best way we felt we could to get ready for district — when the games really count. For us, the last two games have been about playing sound baseball, taking advantage of the opportunities that occur in ballgames and not making mistakes."
They battered Bulldog pitchers Conner Metcalfe and Jeremy Claxton, who finished with a combined 13.03 ERA through the run-ruled five innings. The two boys threw 122 pitches, allowed 14 hits, walked six batters and committed 10 errors in 4.1 innings.
They also allowed six stolen bases on seven attempts from Reeher (2), Horton, Maxwell, Pinter and Luis Dermas. Only Horton, who was thrown out at home in the bottom of the fifth inning, was caught stealing.
Davis, in comparison, was dazzling.
He struck out 11 batters, only walked two and held Rice to a single hit with 74 pitches. Davis' five-inning ERA was a minuscule 0.80. He also held the Bulldogs to six quality at-bats — which are recorded after six-pitch at-bats, walks and sacrifice bunts and fly balls — from Claxton, Metcalf, Dylan McDonald and Colton White.
Maypearl will look to stay undefeated when they face Corsicana Mildred High School at 6 p.m. Friday at MHS Eagle Field. The (5-7, 1-0) Eagles beat Blooming Grove High School 7-3 on Tuesday.
"Starting off 2-0 is nice but it's a long district season. We have to continue to get better every day and good things will happen," Bilbrey said about the Panthers' quick start. "The wins and losses will take care of themselves. We're getting better, and playing better. We're pitching better, we're hitting the ball better, and we're more consistent making the routine play on defense. We have a couple of guys coming off injuries that are healthy now and that's helped, too."
Marcus S. Marion can be reached for story idea submissions or concerns at (469) 517-1456. Follow him on Twitter at @MarcusMarionWNI.