MAY — The most successful baseball season in May Tigers history continues Saturday with the pursuit of a first-ever area championship.
Coming off their first playoff game and series victory in a bi-district championship sweep of Baird last weekend, the Tigers will square off with the Borden County Coyotes at 4 p.m. Saturday at Howard Payne’s Don Shepard Park in a one-game Region I-A area championship game.
“It’s really big for us and big for our program,” May head coach Chad Dail said of the Tigers’ 9-8, 10-2 sweep of Baird in the opening round. “Since I’ve been here we’ve always wanted to get that golden glove in the trophy case, we didn’t have any of those in there, so this first one is big for our program. It’s just another building block.”
The Tigers roster consists of seven seniors — A.J. Martin, Andy O’Neill, Keaton Blankenship, Cameron King, Kase Cox, Cotton Bane and Kaleb Simpson — who have played pivotal roles in May’s steady rise.
“Five of the seven start and this is big for them,” Dail said. “All the seniors have stepped up and done a good job in leadership roles.”
May opted for a one-game playoff instead of a series due to only three completely healthy pitches being available this weekend in Mote, Bane and Gage Keckler.
“Wyatt’s come a long way this year,” Dail said. “He’s got close to 100 strikeouts in about 75 innings pitched. Cotton has also been real key for us this year. He’s pitched, not as much as Wyatt, but pretty close. Gage is the No. 3 pitcher right now and he came in during Game 2 last weekend and did a good job. Cameron tweaked his knee a little and I wasn’t really comfortable going into a three-game series with three pitchers. It’s all or nothing, we have to throw the best we have at them.”
Coming off a 19-run outburst last weekend, the Tiger offense appears to be hitting on all cylinders at the ideal time.
“Offensively we’ve been getting the job done,” Dail said. “The last few games the bottom of our lineup and middle of our lineup have really come through for us. They started off a little sluggish but as the year progressed they started getting better and better and right here when it counts they’ve really come through for us. The top of the lineup’s been pretty solid, but the middle and bottom have as well through the last few games.”
Borden County has already captured a football state championship and reached the state tournament in basketball as the Tigers attempt to quash another deep postseason run for the Coyotes, who are coming off a first-round bye as District 6-A champions.
“The last game they played was against McCamey so they’re still pretty fresh,” Dail said. “They have two pitchers, a righty that throws in the low 80s and has good stuff and a left-handed kid that also throws real hard. Their catcher is quick and has a cannon and their offense hits the ball well one through nine. It’s nothing overpowering but they hit the ball really well. We have to limit errors, play good defense and be able to hit the ball.”
Having already made history this postseason, Dail sees no reason why the Tigers’ run can’t continue.
“If we continue to improve day by day, week by week, we’re going to play as long as we can,” Dail said. “We’d like to keep playing until school’s out. This is a big deal for us to make it to area. We’re happy to be here and we’re going to compete just like we have been.”
Saturday’s winner will go on the face either Cross Plains or Ira in the regional semifinals next weekend.