The Longhorn baseball team (3-2, 7-11) travel today, April 9, to Lakeside armed with aspirations of avenging a March 30 disheartening 16-1 loss to the region-leading Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets (4-0, 15-3).
A victory over the homestanding Jackets would be a huge confidence boost, but equally as important, the “W” would keep the Horns in the race for the East championship and a possible top seed into the state tournament when it begins May 7 in the Valley.
In taking on BR, the outcome could hinge on good defense which — for the Horns — has been hard to come by.
This year, the team has committed a whopping 59 errors — a mark that has coach Jerry Daniels scratching his noggin in bewilderment.
“It’s amazing, I really don’t know what’s the problem, “ he said. “We aren’t doing anything different than we did in past seasons.”
Daniels’ teams have traditionally been steady defensively, but the current model is obviously struggling, especially in the infield.
To come away with a win today the Horns will need steady pitching to go along with a hopefully improved defense.
For hurling duties, Daniels has several pitchers in his corral, but none have stepped up to dominate as Hunter Haynes did last season while leading PHS to a 20-10 record and into the second round of the state tournament.
At midweek, Daniels was uncertain which pitcher would get the call against BR.
Among the regulars, long and lanky right-hander Dakota Marshall has the best ERA (4.00) in 21 innings pitched.
Sophomore Keaton Duran leads the Horns in innings pitched, 27.1, and has a 4.10 ERA.
Jake Sleeper (4.85) is the PHS strikeout leader with 22 Ks.
Sean Dougherty (7.00) hasn’t found the stuff he had last season when he posted a 2.32 ERA and a 5-3 record.
Any of the four could be the starter, or a reliever, when the Longhorns arrive today in Lakeside.
While the Horns have struggled defensively and pitching has had its ups and downs, the offense — led by the big three of Ever Figueroa, Weston Gibson and Dakota Marshall — has been explosive.
Gibson, a junior infielder, is hitting a team-high .482, which is also third best in the East, as is his on-base percentage of .538.
Figueroa sports a .443 average and Marshall is hitting .417.
Marshall has also supplied most of the power in the lineup with three home runs and three doubles.
He also is the team RBI leader with 21. Gibson has 20. The marks rank second and third in the region.
The big three and Chance Randall have also been the iron men on the roster appearing in all 18 games the Horns have played.
In addition to having a potent offense, Longhorn base runners have been exceptional on the paths successfully pilfering 33 bases in 37 attempts.
Gibson leads the team with seven thefts.
Following the showdown in Lakeside, the Horns take a brief respite before returning to action April 13 in a non-region game vs. St. Johns. Game time is 4 p.m. on PHS diamond.