CAPTION: Burnet pitcher Presely Crawford has 200 strikeouts this season to help the Lady Dawgs advance to the regional quarterfinals, their first trip to the third round in program history. Photo by Martelle Luedecke/Luedecke Photography
Though the high school baseball season has ended in Burnet County, softball continues to pressing forward behind some historical moments not lost on the players. And while fewer teams are experiencing after-school practice, several athletes and a few squads are making the most of their final week before competing to obtain the ultimate prize.
- The 2023 Burnet softball team has fulfilled its goal of being considered the greatest squad in program history thanks to sweeping Smithville 3-1 May 5 on the heels of run-ruling the Lady Tigers 11-1 May 4. The Lady Dawgs are getting incredible performances from a number of players, especially sophomore pitcher Presely Crawford, who earned her 200th strikeout this season. The Lady Dawgs scored enough in the second game to give their pitcher enough of a cushion for the win. Of course, it also helps that Crawford had 12 strikeouts in what turned out to be the final contest of the series. In addition, the Burnet defense made timely plays that must have been frustrating for the Lady Tigers, who showed they were capable of putting runners on base. The difference was the Lady Dawgs took away scoring opportunities with great defensive plays that would normally put runs on the scoreboard. The regional quarterfinals won’t be any easier as Burnet faces Salado, an old District 19-4A rival. Like the Lady Dawgs, the Lady Eagles (26-10, 10-0) are the District 23-4A champions. They swept La Grange in the second-round series and beat Lampasas in a one-game, winner-take-all contest to begin the playoffs. Salado hosts game one at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 11, then travels to Burnet for a 7 p.m. first pitch Friday, May 12, for game two.
- It’s time for the state track meet, specifically the Class 4A meet featuring some outstanding Burnet athletes who’ve worked incredibly hard to get there. One runner, Hudson Bennett, knows what it takes to win a state title as he’s won back-to-back golds in the 3,200 meters. He also knows what it’s like not to win gold in the 1,600 meters. Bennett will not be pursuing a third gold medal in the two mile and will put his focus entirely on obtaining the one gold he has yet to win in the mile. Teammates Victor Aviles and Asah Roy will be making their state debuts. Aviles will run in lane two of the 800 meters, while Roy will compete in lane five of the girls’ 1,600 meters. And pole vaulters Brayden Hill and Brady Rygaard also make their debuts at state and are two of at least six juniors vaulting at state. The Burnet Five’s advancement to the final weekend of the track season isn’t a surprise. They’ve all performed at a high level for months. The Class 4A track meet is Thursday, May 11, at Mike Myers Stadium at the University of Texas at Austin campus. The 3,200 meters and the field events are scheduled to start at 9 a.m., while the other running events begin at 5 p.m.
- Also on the same day is the Class 3A state meet featuring Llano junior 300-meter hurdler Gwyn Burnett, who is looking to add another medal to her 2022 state silver medal. Burnett, who is entering the race with the third fastest time in the race, is the ultimate competitor and raises her level of play when it matters most. That’s a mentality that can’t be coached. The running events will begin at 5 p.m.
- Let’s stay in Burnett’s other sport — softball — where the Lady Jackets made quick work of Early in the area round of the playoffs where they played a one-game, winner-take-all playoff contest. Llano won 11-0 in a game that ended after five innings. By all accounts, this match-up looked like a good one between two teams that mirrored each other. Llano junior pitcher Skylar Brown (3-0 in the postseason) struck out nine and helped herself with 3 hits, including a home run. So the fact the Lady Jackets took out the Longhorns (28-6-2, 13-1 District 8-3A champions) in five innings is incredible. Congratulations to the Lady Jackets, who are now preparing to face Merkel.
- The Llano baseball team’s mature and business-like attitude shined in sweeping Clyde 8-4 May 6 and 4-2 May 5. The Jackets had an adventure before they could start the game May 5. Originally scheduled for 4 p.m. at Howard Payne University, a storm set in right before the game started. HPU staff advised putting the tarp on the field and letting the storm blow through, which happened after 10 minutes. But Mother Nature wasn’t done, so coaches decided to flip a coin to see which team would host game one and which would host games two and three. Llano won the flip and chose to play at Clyde Friday night and end the series on the Jackets’ home field the next day. When the team bus pulled in at 2:30 a.m. Saturday, players and coaches discovered remnants of the hail storm: busted vehicles and damage to homes. But none of that slowed the Jackets as they closed out Clyde in two games. The next opponent’s coaches, Brock, were in attendance and began flipping for format, which is one game, and that Llano is the home team. After that, Brock decided it was done flipping for the day. The rest will be negotiated later this week.
- While Llano was pulling into its parking lot the wee hours of Saturday morning, the Burnet baseball team was in the midst of evening its bi-district series against Salado, which it won 4-3 in eight innings. Junior Dash Denton gave the Bulldogs five quality innings as the starting pitcher. Senior Braden Ellett-Clark threw the last three innings and got the win. And though the season ended in a 14-2 loss to the Eagles in the third game, the Bulldogs showed they have plenty coming back for another strong season in 2024. That’s because head coach Russell Houston can build the pitching staff around junior Kade Shaw, sophomore Matthew Valdez and Denton. Valdez’s loss to a season-ending injury was impactful as he was 2-0 in District 24-4A play at the time his season ended. Still, Burnet has enough to make them a favorite for 2024.
- The Marble Falls Mustangs’ baseball season also ended with an 8-3 loss to Gatesville in game three of the bi-district series. It was a cruel finish for a Mustang squad that accomplished plenty this school year, including the first district championship in 20 years. The players should be commended for their outstanding play, particularly in district play where they lost only twice and won six contests with the 10-run rule. And coaches are to be commended, too, as the one Achilles’ heel was obvious during what turned out to be the final game of the season. Pitchers Bryce Atkinson and Cale Cochran were masters on the hill throughout district play, and they brought a ton of confidence and energy to their teammates, so much so that other pitchers didn’t have to do more than maintain the good fortune of what was happening. That distinct difference in pitching was apparent in the final game. Creating the pitching staff capable of garnering that type of confidence from its teammates comes from hard work, rapport and the defense seeing the results. The Mustangs have months to do that, and I’ll be curious to see the results of that labor in 2024.
- The Marble Falls boys golf team has two more weeks to prepare for the Class 4A state tournament, which is at The Legends Golf Course in Kingsland. I’m sure the Mustangs have studied every part of the course, as well as played on it when Mother Nature has allowed, in preparation to play against the state’s best. The tournament is Monday and Tuesday, May 22-23.
- The month of May means it’s time for 7-on-7. Last week, Burnet hosted Llano and Lago Vista as the three teams each played two games. With Burnet’s baseball season ended, those players will return to the gridiron and begin spending time getting ready for the fall.
- And finally, congratulations to Burnet senior offensive lineman Cameron Stires for signing his National Letter of Intent May 2 to play for Austin College. He is the second Bulldog offensive lineman to sign and was one of the top linemen in the area. Congratulations to him and his family.
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