The formula has worked for ages.
Give a team a star player and a cast of good, solid teammates and championships are there for the taking.
Such is the case with the Granbury Pirates baseball team this season.
Entering last night’s game at O.D. Wyatt in Fort Worth, the Pirates (13-7 overall, 7-1) were tied for first place in District 7-4A with Arlington Heights (11-7, 7-1). In fact, they own the top seed from district should the playoffs start now by virtue of a 5-2 win over Heights in Granbury.
The cornerstone of the team’s success is senior Nathan Hickey, who is having one of the best seasons in Pirate baseball history.
Hickey came into this week with a 5-0 pitching record, along with recording a save in his lone opportunity. His earned run average of 0.52 is among the lowest to be found in Texas, and he’s struck out 63 with 14 walks in 40.2 innings.
“Nathan is about as good as they come,” said Granbury coach Brad Eppler.
“There is no question he can be a very good college player for whatever team is lucky enough land him.”
Last season Hickey narrowly missed joining an elite club when he struck out 99 batters. Only two other Pirate pitchers are believed to have topped the century mark, Nathan Copeland with 139 and Wade McClintock with 103.
But pitching is only half of what Hickey does great. He’s also leading the Pirates with a .519 batting average, 19 RBIs, 40 hits, and 7-for-7 stealing bases. His .701 slugging percentage, .549 on-base percentage, four triples and six doubles are second on the team.
“Nathan’s one of those players every coach wants, unselfish, a leader, and he can do anything you want anytime you want,” said Eppler.
“And he makes everyone on the team with him better.”
Witness four other Pirates who are batting over .350 this season, Landon Gray (.469, 17 RBIs, team-best .750 slugging, team-best .575 on-base, team-best five triples), Landon Weatherly (.413, 13 RBIs), Payton Rhodes (.377, 15 RBIs, team-best 15 walks, team-best seven doubles), and Tristen Fallin (.368, 16 RBIs, team-best two home runs).
Rhodes, for example, put together one of the top all-around games of the season in the Pirates’ most recent victory. In a 12-2 win over South Hills, he pitched a five-hitter and was 3-for-3 at the plate with two doubles and a walk.
In fact, that game was one of the most complete of the season for the entire team. A dozen batters got a hit or walked.
As a team, the Pirates are batting .339, along with showing patience by drawing 77 walks(team-best 15 by Rhodes). They’ve also been hit by a pitch 14 times (three each by Gray, Matthew Hickey and Alex Kempf).
Once on the bases, they’ve shown themselves to be adept. Along with Hickey’s perfection, Weatherly is 6-for-8 and Brendan King is 5-for-6.
The Pirates are close to being 8-0 in district, having dropped a heartbreaking 4-3 loss at Aledo. Granbury led 3-0 going into the bottom of the seventh before errors cost them.
“The guys know they should be 8-0,” said Eppler. “But we’re in position to win district, and that’s the main thing.”
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