Coleman, Cards want fast start

Published 12:09 am Wednesday, June 7, 2006

The Bridge City Cardinals know how important it will be to get off to a quick start this afternoon when they play Texarkana Liberty-Eylau at the state tournament.

“Scoring first is big to give you confidence,” coach Billy Bryant says. “It all comes down to execution, who makes the least mistakes.”

BC, 33-5 and the No. 1-ranked Class 3A team all season, plays Liberty-Eylau’s Leopards (24-14) at 4 p.m. at Round Rock’s Dell Diamond, the first of two Class 3A semifinals.

Abilene Wylie (27-8) and Falfurrias (27-6) play the other semifinal at 7 p.m.

Today’s two winners square off at 6 p.m. Thursday for the 3A title.

In senior shortstop Derrick Coleman, the Cardinals have the right man at the top of their batting order to get them off and running, a fact he demonstrated again last Friday in their 6-3 win over Cameron Yoe that put them back at the state tournament.

Coleman hit the game’s first pitch to the left field fence for a double and scored a minute later to get things started.

“As the leadoff hitter, you’ve got to get everything going,” Coleman says. “I’ve got to set the tone for the rest of the team. I like getting big hits like that double.

“A single does the trick, too, sometimes, but I like a big hit all the time.”

Coleman has had plenty of those in his Redbird career.

This season, he has 10 doubles and a team-high two triples to go with four home runs, which is fourth-best on the team. His .438 batting average is second only to pitcher-first baseman Kevin Angelle, a pro draftee by the Texas Rangers Tuesday.

“He played second base for us last year, but our team needed him to move to shortstop,” Bryant said. “That gives us the best chance to win with him over there.

“He had just a tremendous game last Friday fielding for us. I’ve never seen a good team that didn’t have a good middle infield. And he’s been huge for us at bat.”

Coleman says the transition from second to shortstop wasn’t that hard, as he’s played both positions on summer-league teams most of his life.

“The toughest thing is just circling around the ball so you don’t catch it on your back foot, so you can make a throw,” he said. “You’ve got to be a little stronger with the throw and a little quicker.”

The Cardinals worked all season to get back to the state tournament and try to do better than last year, when Carthage blew out to a 5-0 lead on them en route to a 5-2 semifinal win.

Carthage went on to win the state tourney the next day.

“There wasn’t too much good coming out of that loss,” Coleman says. “We could have easily won that game. I think we were overwhelmed by being there.”

The surroundings will be different this time, if no less intimidating. A year ago, the 3A state tourney was played at Disch-Falk Field in Austin. Dell Diamond, home of the minor league Round Rock Express, is perhaps even fancier than the legendary University of Texas field.

But at least its field is real grass, a surface the Cardinals are used to, and not the hard-to-play artificial turf that can cause trouble with high hops.

Angelle, a 13th-round pick Tuesday, has struggled with his control early in his last two outings for the Cardinals. Bryant says it has a lot to do with the shrinking size of the umpire’s strike zones as the playoffs have progressed.

But the pitcher with 33 career wins (12-1 this season) always he has collected himself to pitch like his old self, heavy on the strikeouts. He whiffed 14 in six innings in getting a win in BC’s 9-5 first game win over Cameron Yoe last Thursday.

“Also, the last two rounds, we’ve faced two of the best pitchers, regardless of classification, that you’ll see,” Bryant says, meaning Columbus’ Taylor Janak and Yoe’s Brandon Kimbrel. “You’re not just going to jump out and 10-run rule those guys.”

Against Liberty-Eylau, the Cardinals will likely face junior Will Middlebrooks, who has compiled a 13-2 mark on the mound this year.

The Leopards knocked off Carthage’s defending state champions in the regional quarterfinals, then punched their first state-tourney ticket with a Region II championship sweep of Lindale.

“They’ve got a lot of confidence after beating Carthage and Lindale,” Bryant said. “They’re feeling pretty good.”

But so are the Cardinals.

“We’ve got a lot of guys back from last year, so we won’t be so overwhelmed by our surroundings,” Coleman said. “We know we’re going to get great pitching out of Kevin, so we just need good defense and timely hitting.

“We’ve been coming through with that pretty good.”

Bridge City (33-5) vs. Liberty-Eylau (24-14)

* What: UIL Class 3A state tournament semifinals

* When: Wednesday, 4 p.m.

* Where: Dell Diamond, Round Rock

* Why: Winner plays either Falfurrias (28-6) or Abilene Wylie (27-8) for the state championship Thursday at 6 p.m., also at Dell Diamond.

* How (to get to Dell Diamond): Take I-35 north of Austin to exit 253 (Highway 73/Taylor). Turn right and proceed 3.5 miles. Ballpark is on the left.

State tournament

Fact boxes

Texarkana Liberty-Eylau Leopards (24-14)

District: 14-3A champion

Coach: Rick Fowler

Tournament appearance: 1st

Playoff scores: def. Van 14-2, 5-7, 12-2; Carthage 6-2, 4-5, 10-6; Kennedale 7-2, 18-8; Lindale 4-2, 6-3.

Leading pitchers: Jr. Will Middlebrooks, 13-2; Jr. Zach Fowler, 5-2.

Leading hitters: Jr. Will Middlebrooks P-SS, .398; Sr. Cory Wells, 2B-P, .366; Jr. Zach Fowler, 1B-P, .346.

Falfurrias Fightin’ Jerseys (28-6)

District: 31-3A champion

Coach: David Salinas

Tournament appearance: 3rd

Playoff scores: def. Ingleside 4-3, 10-0; Hidalgo 2-3, 9-1, 3-0; West Columbia 2-1, 8-6; Sinton 3-2, 8-6.

Leading pitchers: Sr. Gilbert Vela, 10-2; Jr. Jason Garcia 7-2.

Leading hitters: Jr. Jason Garcia C-P, .467; Jr. Eric Silvas OF, .448; Sr. Gilbert Vela, P-DH, .429.

Abilene Wylie Bulldogs (27-8)

District: 4-3A champion

Coach: Clay Martin

Tournament appearances: 4th

Playoff scores: def. Canyon 5-8, 11-1, 7-1; Clyde 7-2, 23-3; West 10-9, 10-4; Decatur 4-6, 18-9, 5-3.

Leading pitchers: Jr. Michael Strong, 9-0; Sr. Stetson Taylor, 9-3.

Leading hitters: Sr. Blake Lemen, SS, .484, Sr. Stetson Taylor, P-OF, .421; Sr. Evan Chrane, DH-C, .403.

Bridge City Cardinals (33-5)

District: 24-3A champ

Coach: Billy Bryant

Tournament appearances: 3rd

Playoff scores: def. Kirbyville 13-0, 12-1; Barbers Hill 12-8, 0-10, 8-2; Columbus 6-0; Cameron Yoe 9-5, 6-3.

Leading pitchers: Sr. Kevin Angelle, 12-1; Sr. Broc Haymon 8-2.

Leading hitters: Sr. Kevin Angelle, P-1B, .440; Sr. Derrick Coleman, SS, .438; Jr. Johnny Dishon, CF, .434.

Golden Triangle 0-for-10 at state tourney

AUSTIN – Ten times since 1990 teams from Orange and Jefferson counties have reached the University Interscholastic League’s state baseball tournament.

None of those teams have come home as state champions.

Bridge City will be looking to break the “state curse” this year, making its third trip to the state tournament over that span. The Cardinals lost in the championship game 10-1 to Robstown in 1992 and were 5-2 semifinals losers to eventual champion Carthage last year.

Nederland made three trips to state in 1995, 1997 and 1998, but the Bulldogs lost in the semifinals each time. Port Neches-Groves lost in the 2000 state championship game and in the 2004 semifinals.

Little Cypress-Mauriceville reached the state finals in 1996, but lost to Fort Worth Arlington Heights.

Orangefield (1990) and West Orange-Stark (1991) made it to state once in the period, but both squads lost in the semifinals.

— Dave Rogers

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