CAPTION: Dash Denton is one reason why the Bulldogs forced a third game against Salado in the bi-district series. Photo by Martelle Luedecke/Luedecke Photography
The Burnet High School baseball team lost to Salado 14-2 May 6 in game three of the bi-district series.
The Bulldogs finish the season with 21 wins and second in District 24-4A.
“You feel for your seniors because of all the things they go through,” head coach Russell Houston said. “When these kids started as freshmen, they didn’t win a game because of (the) Covid(-19 pandemic). As juniors and seniors, they fight to get back in the playoffs. And they had the heartbreaking 1-0 loss in 2022. The kids were rocking and rolling this year.”
Indeed. The Bulldogs went undefeated in the first round of district play at 6-0. And though they lost two district series, they swept Lago Vista during the final week of the regular season to finish second in the race and take the second seed into the postseason where they met Salado, an old district rival.
“Going into the season, you think that would be totally awesome,” Houston said. “Once you’re in the middle of the season, you play well and you’re expecting to win. You expect to go in and dominate. Because we were successful early on, you expect and your kids are expecting to win. Winning is fun. Having success makes it more fun. And it’s with kids you have over their whole high school careers.”
Though the third contest against Salado ended after five innings, it didn’t start that way.
The Bulldogs took a 1-0 lead in the first that held until the third inning.
“We were there the first two innings,” Houston said. “It was a good game. They got a hit and bunted a guy over.”
That’s when the Eagles scored five runs. But the Bulldogs weren’t done.
“We loaded the bases back up with one out with a good part of our lineup (coming to bat),” Houston said. “And we popped up twice.”
Meanwhile, the Eagles added eight more in the fourth to take a 13-1 advantage thanks to hitting 3 triples and two doubles. In all, Salado had a 12 hits and 12 RBIs with five Eagles accounting for 2 RBIs apiece.
“They hit the ball better than us,” Houston said. “That’s the way it goes.”
The coach noted one challenge of playing in three games is pitching and being meticulous on which pitcher gets the nod in order to give the team the best chance to win.
“We were limited at pitcher,” he said. “You have to stay with him as long as you can.”
That’s what made the game two win against the Eagles to force a third game so impressive. Originally scheduled to begin at 7 p.m., a hail storm forced both teams into locker rooms in the field house. As coaches waited out the storm, they had a conversation about whether to play that night or play two Saturday. Salado said it wanted to play.
So the storm and conditions allowed the first pitch to be thrown around midnight May 6 in a game that ended when Kurt Kassner scored the winning run in the eighth inning near 3 a.m. for the 4-3 victory.
Houston noted the hardest part of a season ending is the finality for the seniors.
“I’m going to get back and coach,” he said. “They’re done for life in high school baseball. It’s hard to say bye to them. You’re losing some good leaders. You’re going to have to have some kids step into that role.”
The Bulldogs won’t get much rest. Most will go into offseason football and will participate in the summer strength-and-conditioning program to prepare for the 2023 season. They’ll also begin participating in 7-on-7.
“Their mindset will change a little bit,” Houston said. “They’ll have a little bit of recovery and rest. It’s a mental grind to go through a full season. We’ll give them a week or so of a break. You’ll start back over the basics to get them ready to start playing summer baseball.”
He noted the goals won’t change. The Bulldogs still want to win the district championship and find success in the playoffs.
“We have to find a way to get to the next round,” the coach said. “We need to do whatever we have to do to win round one. Once you get past round one, it’s why not us? This year they got to 21 wins — that’s a successful season. It was a good year.”
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