RICE, Texas — After lambasting their last four opponents ability to keep pace in an arms race with a 40-1 margin — posting back-to-back shutouts in the process — run scoring was a proven commodity in Maypearl High School's baseball arsenal.
Less than twenty-four hours after grounding Mildred with 11 runs, the Panthers used overwhelming offensivefirepower to stay firmly atop the District 17-3A standings.
Behind double-digit hits and another near no-hitter, Maypearl found its championship mettle Friday against Rice High School at Bulldog Field and pulled a 13-1 caliber victory out of the arms room.
" We are just trying to get better each day and become a better team. Some of the scores have become one-sided, but we still have to get better if we want to accomplish some of our goals," Maypearl Head Coach Brian Bilbrey said about both the quick turnaround to the Good Friday noon game and the difference in Rice during game No. 2. "We are not where we want to be yet. That's what we've been working toward. The guys are focused and confident. We have some momentum going and that has helped, but we want to accomplish more than just making the playoffs and that's the motivation."
The (12-6, 9-0) Panthers, which beat the Bulldogs 13-1 on March 31, sit in the driver's seat to the first 3A baseball district championship in school history and one game ahead of second place Grandview High School.
Lonnie Brooks, one of Maypearl's senior hurler, was electric on the mound, fanning seven Bulldogs with 94 pitches, allowing a single run on two hits and committing one error in seven innings of high school baseball. He threw almost 40 percent fewer pitches than Rice's combination of Conner Metcalfe and Tanner Carliles, who combined for 13 errors, nine walks, 13 runs and a 51 percent strike rate.
Brooks also lowered his season ERA to an eye-popping 1.817 while notching strikeout No. 34 of the season.
More than his near lights out pitching was the presence of a season-long constant that's made the Panthers one of the best teams in the state regardless of UIL classification.
"Hitting has been the key to our success this year," Brooks said. "We've had younger kids step up and do their job this year and all of the returners from last year are doing amazing. Being able to get clutch hits and be confident when your teammate is up to bat is one of the best feelings ever — and we are not even at our best yet and have a lot more to come."
"Baseball is a patient game and a game that nobody is gonna be perfect or 100 percent in," Maxwell added. "Our veterans [last year] taught us to take our time and see the pitches. It's like we say in the dugout, 'Take your time, it's our world. The pitchers are just living in it.' Whoever pitches against us has to pitch on our time at the plate. It doesn't matter whether you're getting a single or your getting a four-pitch walk. Either way, you're getting on base."
Maypearl piled on extra base after extra base and sent a distance-testing home run into the stratosphere, outhitting Rice 10-2. Three batters — Lonnie Brooks (2-for-5), Luis Dermas (2-for-3) and Tanir Horton (2-for-4) — had multi-hit performances and accounted for six hits.
They, however, drove in only four of the team's 11 RBIs.
Five came courtesy of the plate patience of Kenneth McGinn, Robert Pinter and Chase Reeher and a tough seventh-inning at-bat by Cole Maxwell. One came from a crack of the bat turned inside-the-park home run.
"I went up to the plate knowing that I had to look for a pitch I could drive," Davis said. "He threw the first pitch right down the middle and I jumped all over it. I drove it to right-center and sprinted as hard as I could."
In nearly the same span of time it took him to dig the ball into the outfield wall, Davis turned a single into a double, a double into a triple and a triple into something more.
"Rounding second I looked at Coach Walker waving me on and slid head first into third base for a triple," he continued. "But as soon as I slid, the Rice's shortstop overthrew the third baseman and the ball went in the dugout and I got a trip home. It was a crazy play. I haven't had many like that in my life."
Inside-the-park home run aside, Maypearl has had one of the most dominating stretches of baseball in more than a half-decade despite reaching the UIL postseason 10 consecutive years. The Panthers could also become the first undefeated district champions.
To accomplish that feat, though, they will have to pave a way through Rio Vista High School. They face an Eagles team that's lost three straight games to Blooming Grove, Grandview, Rice at 7 p.m. Tuesday at RVHS Eagle Field.
"We just have to try to continue doing what we've been doing. Each game is a challenge in itself," Bilbrey said. "Rio Vista comes in on Tuesday and we are preparing for them right now. The last time we played Rio Vista, it was a 2-0 game after four innings. Hopefully, we can continue to improve and play well against them. Then we'll be able to turn our attention to our next opponent."
Marcus S. Marion can be reached for story idea submissions or concerns at (469) 517-1456. Follow him on Twitter at @MarcusMarionWNI.