Today the Granbury Pirates will try to do something that is believed to have happened only once since the 1950s.
Advance to the third round of the baseball playoffs.
The Pirates (17-13) are taking on Wichita Falls Rider (25-6) in the area round at 1 p.m. at Denton Guyer High School.
Unlike many playoffs, it is a one-game winner-take-all contest.
Granbury coach Brad Hart won a coin flip and opted to go for a single game instead of a best-of-three series. His reasoning, he said, was being able to rely on the strength of his two top pitchers, Nathan Hickey (7-2) and Miles Wagner (8-3) in the same game.
“We are ready to go up against anybody with those guys,” said Hart. “In a single game where anything can happen, I think we’ve got a real shot to beat this team.”
Rider has five pitchers with at least four victories, led by David Pewenofkit (6-0) and Austin Hagy (6-3).
While reaching the regional quarterfinals has been a rarity in Granbury, it is a regular occurrence with Rider. The Raiders have won all 12 of their area-round matchups since 1995.
Granbury reached the second round for the first time since 2009 by disposing of Waco University in bidistrict.
Daniel Arnett, who leads the team with a .448 batting average, said don’t be misled by the Pirates’ barely-above-.500 record. He said they are playing their best baseball when it matters most.
“We’re starting to become a team now, and everyone’s getting used to each other,” he said.
“We’re having more fun.”
The Pirates finished third in District 7-4A, but were just a few runs from possibly competing for the district championship. They had league winner Aledo down by two runs twice, only to lose both – one in eight innings.
They split with runner-up Arlington Heights, losing 2-1 at Heights in a game when the Pirates had the bases loaded late but failed to score. When Heights came to Granbury in the regular-season finale, the Pirates thumped the Yellowjackets 11-0.
Along the way, the Pirates also got a clutch 8-6 11-inning win over Southwest to clinch a playoff berth. In that game, Arnett hit a tying home run in the ninth, and Tristen Fallin ended it with a walk-off home run.
“We’re getting everything together, hitting, defense,” said Hickey. “We’re all playing with a lot of confidence, and the results are showing it.”
It hasn’t all been smooth down the stretch for the Pirates. They were thumped 13-1 at Weatherford, a 5A team that won 29 games, and there was the narrow heartbreak at Aledo.
But Pirate head coach Brad Hart said those games, along with a tough nondistrict schedule, are paying off now.
“We’ve seen a lot of quality baseball teams. We’re ready,” said Hart. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Rider is indeed a perennial power who won the 2011 state championship, the 5-4A champs have also shown a vulnurability. Rider lost both of its district games to crosstown rival and seventh-place Wichita Falls High.
“We’re the best team in our district, but not the best team in our town,” said Rider coach Scot Green with a grin.
“Rider’s a good team. They’ve got [six] college signees,” said Hart.
“But it’s one game. Whichever team plays the best that day moves on.”
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