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No. 1-ranked Friendswood not overlooking Bulldogs

Earning the final playoff spot in a district in any sport insures that the team will play against the best team from another district. For the Nederland Bulldogs baseball team, earning the fourth seed landed them a matchup with the No. 1 team in the state.

Friendswood ended the season 24-0 on the season and are the favorites to win the state title. That doesn’t mean they are overlooking Nederland.

“They are well coached and a good program,” Friendswood head coach Cory Benavides said. “I have been telling our kids since the last district game that it doesn’t matter who we play. This is the playoffs. It is a brand new season. We are not thinking about anything else, but Nederland. They have kids that fight and are hard nosed.”

Friendswood outscored opponents 181-37 on the year.

“I have been blessed to have a great group of kids,” Benavides said. “They know the expectations every day. They show up in the weight room and school. They show up to practice and do what needs to be done. Since the fall, I have been preaching about doing the little things…They have bought in since Day 1. I think it helps that we lost the season last year. Our seniors from last year have been on our mind this entire year.”

Benavides said he knew his team had a chance to be special during the shortened season last year.

“We were on a roll before it shut down,” he said. “We have a bunch of the same guys. I knew we were talented. Talent is only going to get you so far. They know that every single little thing that we hyper focused on during practice is going to get us over the hump. Teams are going to play us tough. There is stuff in baseball that just happens. The ball isn’t going to bounce our way every time. It is how you fight through that.”

Friendswood shortstop Izaak Pacheco is a highly sought after prospect. He committed to play college ball for Texas A&M next year, but he is also projected to be a high pick in the MLB draft.

“Everybody knows the talent is there,” Benavides said. “That is why he is in the position he is in. It is the extra stuff. He is the hardest worker in the room. He doesn’t let up and brings the energy every day. He expects so much out of everybody else. He brings everyone else up. That is huge. When your leaders are doing that, that is what breads success.”

Pacheco and centerfielder Kevin Newkirk are the team’s two senior captains.

“Those are the two guys that put the weight on their shoulders. They have been here and they have done it before. They really don’t let the young guys get away with anything. That is a big help for me, because I can’t do it by myself.”

Game 1 will be at Nederland at 6:30 p.m. Friday. Game 2 will be Saturday at Friendswood followed by Game 3 if necessary.