May 24, 2016 04:40PM ● Published by Tyler Hicks
By EJ Holland
Both Southlake Carroll baseball and softball are poised to make it to the playoffs once again this season.
Baseball Head Coach Larry Hughes and softball Head Coach Tim Stuewe have done terrific jobs of establishing powerful programs that have garnered statewide attention for their recent success.
Stuewe and his softball team won an outright district title last season and advanced to the second round of the playoffs. While this season started off on a rocky ride, the Dragons have weathered the storms of April and find themselves peaking at the right time.
Southlake’s favorite softball team is currently 16-10 overall and sits in second place behind Hurst L.D. Bell in the District 7-6A standing with four games remaining. The Dragons are two games ahead of third place Richland and three games ahead of fourth place Colleyville Heritage.
“The season overall has been pretty successful,” Stuewe says. “We’ve played really well at times. There have also been times where we haven’t played that well. Lately, we’ve been doing what we need to do to win ball games. And that’s what you need to do this time of year.”
Southlake Carroll had a bit of a bumpy ride to open the season. The Dragons lost three of their first four games of the year. Their lone win was a 6-1 handling of Conroe to open up the Bryan/College Station Tournament.
The Dragons would go on to split their next four games in the tournament as they picked up wins over Timber Creek and Huntsville but logged losses to Rusk and Pearland.
Southlake Carroll found some momentum as it destroyed Prosper 17-0 and dominated Lake Dallas 12-2 to open up the Southlake tournament. The Dragons picked up another win in the tourney over Creekview but were eliminated after a 2-1 loss to Hallsville.
The non-district slate came to a close with the Prosper tournament, which saw the Dragons pick up wins over Dallas Sunset and Mount Vernon before dropping two in a row to John Paul II and Prosper.
“We tried to schedule some tough non-district teams in order to get ready for district and playoffs,” Stuewe says. “We wanted to face tougher pitching because we know sooner or later that’s going to come up. We wanted to be prepared. We’re always trying to make ourselves.”
Southlake Carroll’s losing streak extended into district play as it fell to Coppell and Richland by a combined two runs. But then things just started to fall into place for the Dragons.
After a 15-1 trouncing of Euless Trinity, Southlake Carroll went on to knock off Colleyville Heritage, Haltom and LD Bell and even got revenge victories over both Coppell and Richland.
“All along, we’ve been telling the team that we control our own destiny,” Stuewe says. “Any team that can control what they have to do is in a pretty good place. The softball gods just weren’t with us. That’s how this game works at times. But we’re just taking it one game at a time and making sure we’re ready for our next game.”
So what changed for the Dragons as they caught fire and began a six-game winning streak?
“I think we are playing more solid defense,” Stuewe says. “We are not making mistakes there. We are hitting the ball better. We’re putting the ball in play and forcing the other team to make plays. We’re just giving ourselves a chance.”
Stuewe also gave credit to his seniors for providing leadership when Southlake Carroll needed it the most. Courtney Manning, McKenzie Schneider, Emilia Egel and Christina Hill have all played important roles as the Dragons have outscored their opponents by a five-run average during their streak.
The play of sophomores Abigail Stuart, who leads the team with half a dozen homeruns and Avery Zeigler as well as freshmen Lauren Long, Gaby Garcia and Madison Cashon have also bolstered the Dragons.
“It’s all about peaking at the right time. I’ve seen our playing level pick up as we get closer to playoffs,” Stuewe says. “A lot of that does have to do with peaking at the right time. The other thing is matchups.
“Once you get in the playoffs, every game is tough. If we get hot at the right time, we can make a deep run. If we stay focused, we can go a long way.”
On the baseball diamond, Larry Hughes’ team sits at 16-6-1 overall but is peaking at the right time just like its softball counterpart. The Dragons have won four district games in a row and currently are in third place behind Coppell and Colleyville Heritage.
The Dragons are averaging close to six runs per game and are giving up an average of less than two runs per game. Simply put, Southlake Carroll has played excellent defense throughout the season and has exceled behind the arm of ace pitcher Matthew Canterino, who recently notched 14 strikeouts in a victory over Richland.
With four games left in the season, the Dragons need to improve offensively. It is imperative for guys like Zach Farrar, who is committed to Oklahoma for both football and baseball, Hudson Sanchez and Eric Cole to continue to step up with their bats.
“As a senior, I think it’s important for me to lead,” Farrar says. “You have to lead vocally but also by example. I’ve been getting on base a lot, but I feel like I really need to hit some homeruns. That will in turn help the team.”
Last year saw the Dragons make it three rounds deep in the playoffs, but Farrar says this team has the potential to make an even deeper run.
“We’re coming together at the right time,” he says. “We just have to keep it. We’ve bonded together as a team. It’s all about going to practice and working hard and making sure we’re all on the same page.”
Both baseball and softball are in line to advance to the playoffs and possibly make some noise. The two squads are playing their best ball of the year and have yet to reach their full potential.
When they do, they will be a scary sight for opponents in the postseason.