The Port Arthur News
HOUSTON — Can Nederland withstand the charge of an angry Hippo?
The Bulldogs get to answer that very question in the area round of the playoffs starting Friday, as they take on a team with one of the most colorful nicknames in the state. The Hutto Hippos advanced past Magnolia to set up this area round meeting with Nederland.
The two teams are scheduled to play a best-of-three series at Baseball USA starting at 7 p.m. Friday. Game 2 will be played at 3 p.m. Saturday with Game 3, if necessary, played 30 minutes after the conclusion of Game 2.
Hutto (22-9) took a three-game series from Magnolia in the bidistrict round, dropping the first game 9-8 before beating the Bulldogs 18-7 and 4-1 in the deciding game. Both Anthony Asbill and Rylee Nance threw complete games for Hutto in its two victories. Nance struck out seven in his complete game victory while Asbill struck out five
More than the pitching, though, what led Hutto to the series win was its patience. In Games 2 and 3, the Hippos only managed three extra base hits total, but still managed to score 14 runs in the second inning of Game 2 to break it open.
They scored those runs because they forced Magnolia to throw strikes. The Bulldogs threw less than 50 percent strikes in both of the final two games of the series, as Hutto forced walk after walk. That patience also paid off in the regular season.
The Hippos won their first eight district games before running into 17-4A title winner Georgetown. The Eagles swept Hutto in a two-game series, but the Hippos quickly bounced back to finish distirict with an 11-3 record. That gave Hutto the second seed and a matchup with Magnolia.
Nederland (24-5) struggled to beat Dayton in a slugfest of a series, but still pulled off the series win with two straight victories at home. That included a pair of good pitching performances, as Jared Ramoin and Gabe Nevala turned in solid starts to give Nederland a chance to win.
Throwing strikes won’t be hard for any of Nederland’s pitchers. Probably tonight’s starter Mitchell Sanderson throws a high percentage of strikes and works quickly, which should keep the Hippos from getting too comfortable at the plate.
The question for Nederland will be how much it can expect out of Carson Raines. One of Nederland’s two district starters, Raines hasn’t pitched since the Little Cypress-Mauriceville game on April 12. Head coach Cody Robbins said after the final Dayton game that he hopes to have Raines back pitching by this weekend, but there was no guarantee.
If Nederland can swing the bats like it did in the final two games against Dayton, though, pitching won’t matter as much. The Bulldogs were led by first baseman Aaron Sampere, catcher Brian Feltman, third baseman/right fielder Jordan Wood and Raines at designated hitter in those final two games. Both Sampere and Feltman had home runs while Raines and Wood came up with multiple timely base hits to drive in runs.