The number of Galveston County baseball teams still left standing in the UIL playoffs is down to three, as Santa Fe, Clear Springs and Dickinson will all face stiff competition in their respective regional quarterfinal matchups.
Here’s a look at each series.
SANTA FE VS. BARBERS HILL
It’ll be district champion against district champion in this Region III-5A quarterfinal best-of-three series when the 22-5A winners Santa Fe (20-9-2 overall) take on the 21-5A leader Barbers Hill (24-6-2).
While both teams throughout the regular season have been anchored by their pitching and defense, both sides’ offenses erupted in each of their respective area round series last week to get here.
The Indians crushed Manvel, 15-0, in Game 1 of their area round series before outlasting the Mavericks, 9-6, in a 10-inning game to sweep the series. Prior to that, Santa Fe won a one-game bi-district series, 6-0, over Dayton.
The Eagles, meanwhile, walloped Richmond Foster, 11-6, in Game 1 of their area round series, and in Game 2, a five-run fourth inning proved to be just enough, as they swept the Falcons with a 5-4 win. Barbers Hill had two close games in the bi-district round against 22-5A’s fourth place team Galena Park, but managed to sweep the Yellowjackets with a 2-1 win in Game 1 and a 4-3 win in Game 2.
Chief among the key players for Santa Fe will be pitching ace Rome Shubert, who brings a 9-1 record and microscopic 0.82 ERA, and who has 75 strikeouts in 60 innings pitched. Other players to watch for on the Indians team include leadoff man Albert Garza, who leads the team in batting average and is 13-for-13 on stolen base attempts, and Bryce Montemayor, who leads the team in RBIs.
Cleanup hitter Billy Parker, Peewee McDonald and Grant Pfaff are all also hitting well above the .300 average mark for Santa Fe.
While the Eagles haven’t had an overwhelming individual pitching performance, their pitching depth has served them well so far during their playoff run. Top hitters in the Barbers Hill lineup include Cameron Cauley, Trevor Turnbough and River Orsak.
Schroeder Park on the campus of the University of Houston will be the host for this regional quarterfinal series. Game 1 is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Game 2 is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday, and, if needed, Game 3 is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday.
CLEAR SPRINGS VS. ATASCOCITA
After getting battle tested in the area round against District 22-6A third place finisher Humble Summer Creek, the District 24-6A co-champion Clear Springs Chargers (18-9 overall) now set their sights on 22-6A runner-up Atascocita (27-8) in their Region III-6A quarterfinal best-of-three series.
Against Summer Creek, Clear Springs survived two elimination games after falling to the Bulldogs’ standout pitcher Andre Duplantier, 1-0, in Game 1 in the area round series. First, the Chargers eked out a 3-2 win in 10 innings in Game 2, and then exploded with an eight-run third inning to win Game 3, 9-1.
Atascocita walked off with a 6-5 win over Pearland in the teams’ one-and-done area round series last week, and prior to that survived a three-game bi-district series against Deer Park.
Pitcher Mason Schulz leads the Chargers, and has been lights out in the playoffs, surrendering just three hits and one unearned run over 13 innings in his two starts. Schulz also anchors the batting lineup in the No. 3 spot, and when he’s not pitching, plays some solid defense in the field.
Other players to watch for on the Clear Springs team include Michael Cervantes and clean-up hitter Chase Arnaud, as well as Parker Lee who has provided a spark at the bottom of the lineup in the playoffs, batting a combined 6-for-12.
The mission for the Chargers will be finding a way to slow down a potent Atascocita offense that has scored no less than five runs in its four playoff games, including a 16-0 romp in its bi-district opener. Key players for Atascocita include pitcher Clay Bradford and leadoff man Brice Matthews.
The best-of-three regional quarterfinal series starts with Game 1 at 7 p.m. Thursday at Atascocita, continues with Game 2 at 7 p.m. Friday at Clear Springs, and, if needed, Game 3 will be noon Saturday at Humble High School.
DICKINSON VS. KINGWOOD
Like their fellow District 24-6A co-champs Clear Springs, the Dickinson Gators (22-6 overall) battled through two elimination games in the area round, and now will look to carry that momentum against the No. 3 state-ranked Kingwood Mustangs (26-5-2) in their Region III-6A quarterfinal best-of-three series.
In their area round series, after Pasadena Dobie rallied for a 4-3 win in Game 1, Dickinson bounced back to even the series with a 4-0 win, and then followed that up with a 5-2 win in Game 3. The week before, the Gators swept their bi-district series against Pearland Dawson with a 7-1 win and a 2-0 win.
No one has been able to score on Kingwood thus far in the playoffs, as the Mustangs swept their area round series over Clear Falls with a 6-0 win and a 1-0 win, and before that, put up a pair of 10-0 wins over Baytown Sterling in the bi-district round.
Dickinson pitcher Nathan Ingram has been outstanding in the playoffs, so far, with a pair of complete game shutout wins to his name. In those two starts, Ingram has combined to give up eight hits with 12 strikeouts in the 14 combined innings. Ingram also mans the cleanup spot in the Dickinson lineup.
Other key Gators players include the potent one-two punch of Landon Roque and Guy Garibay (who also will pitch) at the top of the lineup, and Lino Nunez, who has been highly productive at the bottom of the order in the playoffs.
Led by ace Masyn Winn, the Mustangs’ pitching has been dominant all season long, totaling 14 shutouts on the year — including four straight to begin the playoffs. In addition to Winn (who also bats third in the order), other key players for Kingwood include leadoff man Trey Richardson and cleanup hitter Luke Johnson.
Barbers Hill High School is set to host the series. Game 1 is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Game 2 for 7 p.m. Friday, and, if needed, Game 3 for 2 p.m. Saturday.