All that stands in the way for Carlisle’s second-straight appearance in Austin is a familiar face.
Like in 2012, the Carlisle (26-1) will face Douglass (20-4) in the regional final with a trip to the state tournament on the line.
The two teams square off at 7 tonight at SFA’s Jaycees Field in Nacogdoches in a one-game series. Carlisle advanced to the state tournament for the first time in school history a year ago, topping Douglass, 4-3, in walk-off fashion in the regional final.
“They’re a good ball club, we’ve got to see three out of their last four games, they’re well coached,” Carlisle head coach Wesley Colley said. “They have a lot of good kids that get after it, I fully expect that it’s going to be a another tight game like last year.
“It’s going to be a hard-fought game; I don’t think anybody will blow anybody out. Whoever comes out of it has a good chance to do well in the state tournament.”
Both teams enter tonight’s contest fresh off battles in their respective regional semifinals. Douglass knocked out Harleton, taking two-of-three to end the Wildcats’ season. Carlisle beat West Sabine in Game 1 before taking a 2-1, extra-inning win in Game 2 to set up the rematch.
“That was a good matchup for our team, a lot of people discounted them I think and I’d like to believe that we didn’t,” Colley said. “I think it had a positive effect on us.
“We had to keep fighting and keep going — we didn’t give in. That’s one thing about these kids, they don’t give in.”
Despite the rematch, Carlisle has remained focused on the task at hand.
“It’s another week, the kids have stated focused and relaxed,” Colley said. “We’ve got all but three starters back from last year so there’s some experience there. I feel like our pitching is better and the defense is solid.”
Gunner Baker leads Carlisle on the hill and at the plate with a 0.00 ERA and .463 batting average. Baker has struck out 162 and knocked in 57 RBIs. Zach Brightwell is batting .457 and boasts a 0.83 ERA off the hill. Ben Goss and Caleb Colley have a .457 and .430 batting average, respectively. Shadow Sanders is 6-0 on the mound with 81 strikeouts.
“We’ve just got to execute,” Colley said. “We can’t leave runners on base, do the little things and move runners and bring them in. Our defense has been solid, we’ve only given up two runs in the playoffs, I’m very pleased defensively and have no complaints pitching-wise.”
(Follow Hayden Henry on Twitter: @hayden_h)