Diboll’s quest to reach the state tournament begins in much the same way as it did last year – in the bidistrict round against the Palestine Wildcats.
Diboll plays host in the first game at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Old Orchard Park’s Pop Warner Field. The second game is at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Palestine. The third game, if necessary, will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at a place to be determined Friday night.
Palestine (16-13) finished second in its district to Rusk.
The Wildcats were the Lumberjacks’ first victim on the way to a berth in the 2013 Region III final where they lost to Silsbee.
That run through the playoffs got the notice of the prognosticators, and Diboll was ranked among the tops in the state for much of the early part of this season, climbing all the way to No. 2 when their record hit 14-2.
However a four-game losing streak during district play brought the Lumberjacks (18-7, 7-5) down to earth, and they finished third in district behind Carthage (11-1) and Hudson (8-4).
“We had a good run early,” said Edd Trotter, Diboll’s head baseball coach. “Fatigue played a big part in that, I think. Now that we’re in the playoffs and playing on the weekends we’ll get them more rest.”
The Lumberjacks’ skid began at home against Carthage, another state-ranked team. Diboll had a 4-0 lead, and Carthage tied the game and sent it to extra innings before finally winning 10-8 in the ninth inning. The Jacks then lost 3-0 to Central and 9-7 to Hudson to close out the first round of district play.
The second round of district play started with a 3-1 home loss to Center. The Lumberjacks went 4-1 the rest of the way, with the lone loss coming 1-0 at Carthage. They finished district play on Friday, April 25, with a 6-3 extra-inning win over Hudson.
This is Diboll’s fourth consecutive season to make the playoffs and Trotters’ sixth year to coach the team.
Diboll’s pitching may be deeper than last year’s with aces Eric DeJesus (6-1, .273 ERA), Alex Aguilar (4-1, 1.366 ERA) and Cody Sanchez (2-2, 4.053 ERA) available to start or relieve. Trotter also said he has complete faith in Thomas Lee (3-1, 1.273 ERA) and Christian Palacio (2-2, 1.438 ERA).
Sanchez leads the team in batting average with a .429 that includes 14 doubles, a triple, 24 RBI and 23 runs scored. DeJesus sports a .353 with 11 doubles, a triple, 26 RBI and 18 runs scored. Palacio has a .333 with 7 RBI and 35 runs scored. Leadoff hitter Gunner Horton has a .326 average with five doubles, 11 RBI and 22 runs scored. Lee has a .273 average with a double, 14 RBI and 9 runs scored. Both Aguilar and Isaac Hernandez have .263 averages. Aguilar has 11 doubles, 22 RBI and 12 runs scored, while Hernandez has 4 doubles, 9 RBI and 4 runs scored.
Among the other offensive contributors is DH Kevin Hurley, who has a .216 average with 5 RBI and 5 runs scored. Hurley has been medically cleared to begin throwing and could be available to play in the field in a couple weeks.
Also contributing are Antonio Pantoja with a .208 average, Michael Garcia with a .162, and Christian Garcia with a .333 in limited action.
Diboll 6, Hudson 3
After a dramatic extra-inning victory over Central that clinched a playoff berth on Tuesday, April 22, the Lumberjacks came through with another nail-biting 6-3win over Hudson to close out the district season in third place with a 7-5 record.
Hudson took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning, but Diboll added a run in the second and took the lead with two runs in the fourth. However, Hudson tied it up with a run in the top of the sixth.
Diboll took the lead back in the bottom of the inning. With one out,
Michael Garcia reached on a dropped third strike, then stole second with two outs. A wild pitch moved him to third and he scored the winning run on yet another wild pitch. Gunner Horton reached on an infield single, and Christian Palacio singled to center field. Eric DeJesus then doubled to the right field wall to give his team some insurance runs.
Diboll scored its first run of the game with a two-out rally. Antonio Pantoja got things going with a single, and Garcia reached on an infield single. Isaac Hernandez then recorded an RBI with a single to left.
Diboll’s fourth-inning runs came with two out as well. Pantoja singled down the third base line with one out. Then, following a Garcia sacrifice bunt, Hernandez reached base on an error. Horton then doubled to left field to plate the two runs.
Sanchez earned the win, pitching 6 2/3 innings and giving up 3 runs (2 earned) on 3 hits and 4 walks. He struck out 5. DeJesus got the final out with a popup to second base.