MAYPEARL — Pitching in high school baseball is a lot like choosing a vacation destination.
It's all about location, location, location.
After Saturday's 12-0 win against Rio Vista High School at Maypearl Panther Field, the early season success through a tough district may seem like little less than a vacation.
Especially for hard-throwing staff ace Dakota Davis and the Panthers.
"We have started district well before," said Panther head coach Brian Bilbrey. "Whats helped us this year has been our pitching. Everything starts with how we pitch. Dakota and Lonnie are throwing the ball well right now. When they pitch like that, the defense can stay sharp and the lineup knows it won't take many runs to get a win."
The (7-6, 4-0) Panthers, which utilized deft dancing strikes by Davis, Lonnie Brooks and Tanir Horton to move in and around the strike zone, have held two teams scoreless and another pair with one-run totals.
And with 22 district innings in the books, pitching may not be the most impressive weapon in 'Pearl's arsenal. That honor might belong to an offense that has scored 41 runs on 45 hits.
It seems like Maypearl, led by the likes of Luis Dermas, Robert Pinter, Chase Reeher, has found themselves in the midst of a hitter's paradise. Panther's production Saturday may be a glimpse of the ceiling of the team rather than the floor.
Maypearl earned nine hits to the Eagles one behind near perfect hitting be Davis and Luis Dermas. Pinter, who went 1-for-3 at the plate and drove in Cole Maxwell in the top of the fourth inning, said both the approach to the plate and the drive to back up the play of whoever is on the mound had been the fuel behind their juggernaut offense.
"As the lead-off hitter, It's my role to take as many pitches as possible, so my teammates and I get a good look at what we are up against," Pinter said. "At the same time, I must find a way to get on base — whether it be a base hit, walk, or forced error. Most times, it'll come by putting the ball into play. It's critical for us as a team to put runs on the board and win every inning. This leads to our pitchers being more confident and less stressed which leads to better pitching and a lower pitch count."
If analytics are any indication, Pinter and the Panthers have terrorized district opponents with small-ball mastery. Of the 23 at-bats by the 12 players, statistics deemed 18 as quality. Reeher (4), Dermas (3), Maxwell (3), Horton (2), Brooks, Elijah Daniel and Corey Nix either forced three pitches after a two-strike situation, a six-pitch at-bat or earned an extra base hit, drew a walk or drove in a run after a sacrifice bunt or fly.
Still, 10 combined strikeouts by Davis (8) and Horton (2), who each finished with an ERA of zero, helped neutralize a talented Eagle roster and limited Rio Vista to a single hit by Colton Harwell and only two quality at-bats in the 15 allowed by the Panther defense.
For the second time in two starts, though, Davis was one out away from his season's first no-hitter.
"I'll admit it has been a little frustrating, but it's been fun and exciting despite not getting it," Davis said. "It's a lot less of me and a lot more of the people around me that have my back — my coaches and teammates. I have nothing but confidence in them. Coach Bilbrey is a fantastic head coach knows how to call a ballgame. I tip my hat to my teammates because there's not a game they don't amaze me in games with their great defense. It drives me to be better than my best."
Seventy percent of Davis' pitches were strikes compared to Tyler Blackburn, Kyle Day and Randall Gillespie. The Rio Vista trio threw 121 pitches but struck out only two, committed 12 errors, walked 10 batters and allowed 12 runs on nine hits.
With Davis, Brooks and Horton on the mound, the Panthers have dominated — arguably easily — district competition. Grandview and its state-ranked Zebras, however, loom in the very near distance.
Per Texas High School Baseball website, dedicated to the update of prep baseball standings, statistics and rankings in the state, Grandview High School is the No. 4 team in the state behind Lago Vista, Clyde and Central Heights High Schools and in front of Hallettsville, Gunter and Edgewood High Schools. Maypearl has yet to receive state recognition despite losing only six games this season and none in District 17-3A.
The Panthers will face the Zebras at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Zebra Field. Last season, Maypearl lost back-to-back bi-district round games and were eliminated from the 3A playoffs by Grandview.
"Grandview is a really good team," Bilbrey said. "Coach (Ryan) Ebner does a great job with those guys. We know going to their place we are going to have to play our best to give ourselves a chance. Hopefully, we can do that."
Marcus S. Marion can be reached for story idea submissions or concerns at (469) 517-1456. Follow him on Twitter at @MarcusMarionWNI