Texas HS Baseball Update

6/3/09 in HS Baseball   |   burnet44   |   49 respect

Heights’ star system gives way to team of interchangeable parts

Although he had a five-homer game earlier this season, John Biggs is part of a team effort at Arlington Heights.
Special to the S-T/Bob Booth
Special to the S-T/Bob Booth
Although he had a five-homer game earlier this season, John Biggs is part of a team effort at Arlington Heights. Special to the S-T/Bob Booth

Fort Worth Arlington Heights is right to think every season it has a chance to go a long way in the baseball playoffs. The Yellow Jackets won a state title in 1996, went back to Austin in 2006 and are rarely finished before the swimming pools open.

But usually, the Yellow Jackets get it done behind a big bat or an ace arm.

Not this season. John Biggs made a splash with a five-homer game in the regular season, and David Shipman leads the team in victories. But they’re not Walker Kelly or Jeff Jones or Kyle Livingstone, some of the names that have led previous Heights teams to the region round and beyond.

"We don’t have that big recruitable kid, that Division-I type kid that we’ve had in the past," coach Tommy Elliott said. "It’s just a team. Every game, it’s somebody else coming up big."

The Yellow Jackets, who meet Canyon Randall in a 4A Region I semifinal this week in Snyder, have made themselves interchangeable.

On the mound, Max Smith has started and saved. Shipman has been at the top of the rotation and at the end. Biggs has hit fifth and seventh. Kevin Conrad has played second and short. Two of the constants are Shipman leading off and Andrew Hunt behind the plate. Even Smith, the cleanup hitter, has moved up and down the lineup.

"In years past, I’ve said we’re going to ride a lineup until it drops because we knew we were going to count on one or two guys," Elliott said. "This year, it’s been pretty fluid. There’s been some guys that have stayed, but other times, we’ve slid guys from third to eighth after two or three games just because someone else was able to pick up the slack."

The Jackets took the changes in stride. Elliott prepared them by telling them it might be a season of transition after so much pitching was lost to graduation last year.

"We knew we were not going to have a big strikeout staff, so the big emphasis was on defense," Elliott said. "The consequence was we transformed defensively. I’ve gone on record saying this is the best defensive team I’ve coached. Straight across the board. In years past, we might have had to plug a hole here or there, but that’s not the case. It’s a lot of moving parts, and they’ve made themselves pretty good."

Rematch ahead

Kennedale coach Jet Teague said his team’s defense made the difference last week against Paris.

"It won the series for us, no doubt," he said.

The Wildcats played error-free in a 4-2 Game 2 victory, sweeping the series.

They will need to continue the habit this weekend against Texarkana Pleasant Grove and Texas A&M recruit Michael Wacha. The pitching ace eliminated Kennedale in a one-game playoff last season in leading his team to the state tournament.

"He’s one of the best in the state," Teague said. "We’ll see how we do. At least they have to pitch somebody else this year."

Poll watch

Houston Bellaire remained No. 1 in the Rivals High 100, the ESPN Rise Fab 50 and USA Today Super 25 national rankings.

Two of the state’s top 4A powers, Corpus Christi Calallen and Corpus Christi Moody, both in the top five in Rivals and ESPN, are on track for a playoff showdown next weekend, but Calallen has to get past Austin Lake Travis, 13th-ranked in ESPN and 18th in USA Today.

In softball, the state no longer has the nation’s top-ranked team. Klein Oak moved out of the top spot in USA Today and ESPN after its playoff elimination, falling to No. 11 in both.

Briefly

Brock (28-4) is in the 2A regional semis behind three sophomore pitchers, including Coleman Bowden, who leads the team with nine victories. Bandy Decker threw a two-hitter and had a save against Gunter last week.

Brock is also alive in softball, going against S&S Consolidated in a regional championship series tonight and Saturday.

Former Crowley softball star Meagan Denny is scheduled to be part of a clinic and an exhibition game Friday night at The Ballfields of Craig Ranch in McKinney. Registration details and a schedule are available at pfxtour.com.

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