While the Sissies were in Austin aiming for the green, the Bulls were back home prepping for baseball playoffs after seizing the District 9-3A title.
Bridgeport (23-5, 7-2) is tasting baseball supremacy for the first time in at least two decades. In the last four years, the Bulls have been consistent playoff contenders, but they hadn’t staked claim to the No. 1 spot, said Ted Leps, Bulls coach.
“It’s been at least 20 years, as far as we know, unless someone calls us and lets us know,” Leps said. “The last time they got close, they got beat in 1988 by Waco La Vega and they had Arthur Rhodes, who was a Texas Rangers relief pitcher last year.”
The 2013 Bulls beat Sanger to lead the district and will face either Dallas Roosevelt or the Princeton Panthers out of Collin County sometime next week. Leps said the Bulls are working hard to face off against stiff competition but acknowledged nothing about the season so far had been a cakewalk.
“You can say that our offense stumbled a bit in district, but our district has some of the top pitchers in the area, like Krum, Elder in Decatur, and there are a couple good kids in Sanger,” Leps said. “Gainesville, even though they were 0-10, always kept the score close. They just couldn’t get over that hump. All our games were close, too, so that should tell you something.”
Leps said the Bulls were down a senior, Branon Huff, all season until the last three games in district, because of an injury sustained during football. However, Leps added the players have adjusted well and are willing to do the work to win games.
“We’ve been pretty consistent all year. We have not given up many runs, and that may turn this next week, but you never know. But our consistency in our defense has been a major part of it,” Leps said. “In non-district we were beating some teams that were the same talent level, with the exception of the pitching staff, pretty handily. Our kids have done really well this year.”
Two of his key players have been Reese Read and Omar Martinez who are each looking at getting more than 50 hits if all goes well, which would be the second time for Martinez. Both are also instrumental to Leps’ defense as pitchers.
“We don’t have guys that will go out there and overpower you, but compared to the teams we play, we’re going to get up there and throw strikes,” Leps said. “We are not going to walk a whole lot of guys. When the other team starts walking people we take advantage of it.”
Martinez said the whole team has been doing a stellar job.
“Leps tells us never to give up and work hard all the way to the last out,” Martinez pointed out. “We’ve had a good year and our hitting has been really good. Reese has been doing well at everything, and when we struggle, Dillon and Damian come in and help out.
“Our offense has been working really hard, and once we get a couple of runs, I can work with that and let them do the rest.”
Most of the seniors have been playing together for at least four years, and several have been playing together since they were all 9 and 10 years old. Leps said usually over the years kids will lose interest or want to do other things, but these seniors are unique. “They like to be out here.”
“Whenever I’m pitching, Omar will watch me and correct me and I’ll correct him, if either of us is doing something wrong,” Read said. “We’ve been on the team for four years, but we’ve been playing together since we were like nine. We all go out there and have fun. We trust each other’s ability, and we aren’t scared of anyone.”
Catcher Dillon Huff said working with the same guys for so long definitely makes his job behind the plate easier.
“I’ve been catching these guys for a long time, so it’s been pretty easy catching those two,” Huff said. “I know what they throw, and I usually know where it’s going.”
Leps has been drilling in the importance of winning 20 games a season. That, combined with the players’ consistency, has proven a winning combination.
“This is my fourth year here, and every year our goal is to win 20 games. If you can win 20 games, it’s for sure you can make the playoffs,” Leps said. “We don’t talk district championships, because they are hard to come by when all the teams are pretty even.”