Though the Burnet High School baseball team suffered back-to-back losses April 8-9, head coach Russell Houston pointed out the differences he believes are key for the Bulldogs as they turn their attention to the final weeks of the regular season.
The Bulldogs (8-9-1, 5-4 District 19-4A) lost to Austin McCallum 11-8 April 9, a day after a 10-0 loss to Georgetown Gateway.
Top of the list in the differences between the two contests can be found in the first inning. In both contests, Burnet gave up four runs. But against the Knights, the Bulldogs plated three runs in their half of the inning. Against the Gators, Burnet didn’t do that.
“When we have success early, when it’s close, we’re going to have a shot at it,” head coach Russell Houston said. “If it’s close, I feel like we’re going to win it.”
The McCallum game featured Burnet pitchers who haven’t thrown a lot this season. Kurt Kassner threw three innings. Will Johnson had two strikeouts.
Offensively, Tanner O’Hair had 3 RBIs.
But the important element is the Bulldogs responded in their half of the first inning to give themselves a chance to win, Houston said.
“We were able to get back in the game and compete a little bit,” he said. “We got a lot better on Saturday.”
Following the loss to Gateway, Houston gathered his players and emphasized the importance of not letting that loss define their season. After all, Burnet did win two of the three games against the Gators to take the series and the valuable head-to-head matchup if a tiebreaker is needed to decide the playoffs.
“We had one of those games where nothing went right,” he said. “It went bad from the beginning. It was one of those games that we’re going to move on and forget about it.”
A questionable call that went against the Bulldogs in the first inning. A Gator ran home, and the ball was thrown for the out to get out of the inning. But as soon as the ball went home, the runner on first was on his way to second. As the catcher was getting the ball out of his glove to make the throw, he dropped it. The umpire ruled that since the ball was dropped, the runner was safe at home, and that allowed the runner to be safe at second, too.
The next batter hit a double off the wall that brought in more three runs.
Many high school athletes wrestle with a deficit and questionable calls and the other side of that coin, Houston said.
“We want to concentrate on the things we can control,” he said. “We have to go battle — that’s the mindset. We made an error they tried to score on. We had the guy thrown out at the plate.”
The other important element, the coach said, is the defense embracing it must make every ordinary out that includes grounders, pop-ups and flyballs and avoid recording errors. The grounders are especially important because those usually are hit to infielders and compel the defender to know what to do with the ball before it gets to him. It also means infielders must move to cover bases so the outs can be made with accurate throws. And that requires defenders staying mentally focused on what’s happening and not have the lapses. The Bulldogs had seven errors during the loss.
“Some nights they’re going to hit the ball at you, and you’re going to make every routine play,” Houston said. “I think we play better defense when we pitch to contact and they hit.”
Gateway pitcher Blake Brinkmeyer was credited with the win thanks throwing six innings and recording 6 strikeouts. As a batter, he drew 3 walks and had an RBI.
Going into the final three weeks of the season, Burnet is in third place. The Bulldogs will travel to Salado (4-5 and in fourth place) on Tuesday, April 12, and welcome the Eagles on Thursday, April 14, at Bulldog Diamonds, 1000 The Green Mile. Both games start at 7 p.m.
The Bulldogs are preparing to face Salado pitcher Caden Strickland, one of the top hurlers in the district.
Taylor (8-1) is in first place followed by Lake Belton (7-2). Jarrell (2-7) and Gateway (1-8) round out the district standings. The Bulldogs have won three-game series Jarrell as well as Gateway.
“We’re sitting in a good spot,” Houston said. “We have to find a way to win one of two (against Salado). It’ll solidify our spot and give us a chance at second place. I feel like we’re going to get in the playoffs, I feel like we’re in a good spot.”
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