Brook Hill Baseball Heads To TAPPS Tournament With Eye On Fourth State Championship Of The Decade
Imagine if Christmas Day was postponed a week. That's kind of the state of suspense the Brook Hill baseball team has lived under since punching its TAPPS 4A state tournament ticket more than a week ago.
The tournament is supposed to be over. The champion should have been crowned last week.
Instead, it's all still out in front of the Guard. They're in Houston today preparing for Tuesday's long-awaited state semifinal game against Midland Christian.
"I've been ready for it since last week," sophomore infielder and pitcher Miguel Vega said. "I probably haven't slept very good since then. I've been waiting to play, been anxious and been thinking about everything I'm going to do. How I might have a chance to win and have a chance to help my team getting there."
TAPPS' governing body got anxious in its own right when adverse weather was forecasted for the tournament. It delayed the event a week and moved it to the Baseball USA complex in Houston.
Midland Christian (25-10-1), as well as Austin Hyde Park (23-8-1) and Houston Second Baptist (30-9) on the other side of the bracket, all have lived inside the same suspended environment.
Brook Hill (19-10) bided some of the time by scrimmaging Plano Prestonwood, a 5A state tournament competitor, last Wednesday in Bullard.
The Guard's payoff is at noon Tuesday. The two semifinal winners advance to the state championship game at 11 a.m. Wednesday.
It is at that time Brook Hill will try to win its fourth championship since 2011 and its first as a 4A competitor. The Guard won 3A titles in 2011, 2012 and 2013 in addition to an earlier title in 2004.
"It's my third year as the head coach at Brook Hill," Guard skipper Brock Lemire said. "I've had a lot of these kids since their sophomore year, and I had a three-year plan before we moved up a division to get us back into state contention. My third year was this year. We got it done.
"This is a very interesting place and we've had some move-ins this year. The guys here are great. They've inherited those kids like they've known them for years and understand the importance of team chemistry. A lot of them are really good friends. It doesn't hurt that we've won some games along the way."
The past two wins were certainly the biggest. Brook Hill just scraped by Fort Worth Southwest Christian in a three-game quarterfinal series.
Southwest Christian gave up big leads in all three games, but it always clawed back to make things interesting.
The Guard coughed up a 6-2 lead in Game 1 and ultimately lost 10-9. Brook Hill owned a 9-1 lead in Game 2 and survived, 15-14.
In the rubber game, the East Texas side built an 8-1 lead and escaped by a final score of 10-6.
"It was just a real big up-and-down factor with them," senior pitcher and shortstop Mason Smith said. "We'd get some up and they'd come back and we'd come back. It was a cat and dog fight with us chasing each other around. But, finally, we were able to come out on top."
Smith is a testament to Lemire's point of good team chemistry. A season ago, he was a key player at Jacksonville High School and part of a team that battled Class 5A competition from the University Interscholastic League and within a very competitive district.
Brook Hill faced some of the same teams that Smith did at Jacksonville during its own non-district portion of the season.
Bullard, Marshall and Pleasant Grove -- all of which enjoyed strong years with Pleasant Grove still alive in the postseason -- headlined the list. The Guard fell in all of those games, but they battled Marshall and Pleasant Grove to one-run contests.
Bullard, Marshall and Pleasant Grove all have at least three times the student enrollment of Brook Hill.
"I've always thought we were a state contender team," Lemire said. "Even at the beginning of the year. We've had some tough losses against quality opponents, like Bullard and Pleasant Grove. This team has definitely has had some adversity that I think helped us through the playoffs to hang in there and keep competing. We were in a couple of barnburners against the Southwest Christian team, and I think adversity really helped us out in the long run."
Midland Christian offers its own challenges in the semifinal game. Ace pitcher Grant Little will play for the Texas Tech baseball team next year as a positional player, and this will be his third appearance in a state tournament setting.
Two big games separate the Guard from greatness. But only two big games.
"Midland is a strong team," Lemire said. "Hyde Park beat us out in a 2-0 loss last year. Houston Second Baptist is also one that's in it. They're a juggernaut and will be difficult to beat, but, in the game of baseball, anybody can beat anybody at any certain time. It's whoever's willing to rise to the occasion and compete to above where they're used to competing. That's who will typically win the game in these sorts of situations."
TAPPS 4A State Tournament
Tuesday-Wednesday (May 24-25)
At Baseball USA Complex, Houston
- 4A Semifinal: Austin Hyde Park (23-8-1) vs. Houston Second Baptist (30-9), 9 a.m., Tuesday
- 4A Semifinal: Brook Hill (19-10) vs. Midland Christian (25-10-1), noon, Tuesday
- 4A State Championship Game: 11 a.m. Wednesday