Deer Park, La Porte set for big baseball game at Kethan Field
No one should be surprised that Deer Park and La Porte’s varsity baseball teams have opened the 2018 District 22-6A campaign with identical 3-0 records.
Both programs have that aura surrounding them, a result of numerous
winning seasons to go with savvy head coaches who have devoted a big chunk of their lives to high school baseball.
Now the two are ready for another big showdown, one that will give the winning team an edge towards potentially capturing the district championship flag. Who wins Friday night’s 7 p.m. game at Jim Kethan Field will say a lot about what will follow in the remaining 10 contests.
One of two questions could be answered Friday night. Is Deer Park’s offense as good as it has looked in the opening three district games or is La Porte’s pitching is as good as it has looked in the opening three contests?
The Deer are hitting at over a .400 clip. With already 36 runs scored and 40 hits, the bats have made mincemeat of opponent’s pitching. But it’s also been the softer part of Deer Park’s district schedule. La Porte kicks off Deer Park’s more rugged stretch as Beaumont West Brook, Dobie and Memorial, three potential state playoff candidates await.
La Porte has surrendered just two runs in 21 innings so far, having already defeated West Brook and Memorial.
Deer Park’s probable starting pitcher will be Mark Barrow, who pitched a week ago and came away with a five-inning no-hitter against Sam Rayburn. For the season, he’s 2-1 with a 2.80 ERA, having allowed eight earned runs, while striking out 32.
La Porte could counter with junior Dylan Conde, who worked four-and-a-third innings last Thursday in which he surrendered just two singles, walked three and struck out three in a no-decision against Pasadena.
Offensively, La Porte is led by Josiah Castro, the team’s three-hole hitter with a .396 batting average and by Kacey McCoy, the six-hole hitter enjoying a .394 batting average. But against Memorial in the district opener, McCoy was hitting eighth.
But no opposing pitcher can overlook the meat of La Porte’s batting order. The two through four-hole hitters all snatched up all-district honors last spring. Jacob Olvera (Second Team), Castro (First Team) and Mark Gomez (First Team) are a tough trio.
Whoever pitches for La Porte, they’ll have to tiptoe around more than a few concerns themselves.
It starts with Blake Martin, Deer Park’s clean-up hitter, who was a Second Team All-District selection last year at DH. He and outfielder Austin Mitchell are the only First or Second teamers back from last season’s state championship team.
Martin, who will likely be found at third base, entered the week hitting .488. He hit his eighth double Tuesday night and that goes with the five home runs already on his 2018 resume. His 26 RBIs easily leads the long list of 22-6A hitters off to solid starts.
Hitting in the neighborhood of .400, Barrow helps anchor the lower half of Deer Park’s order. But when pitching, head coach Chris Rupp has DHed for him in the past. It’s a tough call for a coach as to whether or not to take plate appearances away from a kid hitting that high.
Tyler Weir is hitting .364 and he was hitting right below Barrow in Tuesday’s win over Sam Rayburn. Then you’ve got Mitchell hitting sixth.
Blaine Holden and La Porte’s Jalen Metz should both be tough outs in the leadoff spot. Even if the pitchers induce ground balls from the pair, they’ve got above-average quickness to get down the line in a hurry. High choppers probably mean an infield basehit for both.
Holden, Tyler Stenberg and Jordan Phillips all set the table for Martin and have been doing it for a month or Martin wouldn’t have the RBI total that he currently enjoys.
We may only be three days into spring, but there will definitely be electricity in the air Friday night, the kind often found in the final weeks of spring.