For a program that is a perennial playoff contender year in and year out, McKinney North baseball is looking to put last year far away in the rear view mirror and get back on the road to another district championship.
After a thrilling 3-2 victory over their crosstown rivals McKinney High on Wednesday night, the Bulldogs pulled their district record to an even 2-2, good for fifth place in District 10-4A going into Friday night’s games.
And while the Bulldogs would love to be on top of the standings with no blemishes on the record, head coach Jim Gatewood says that all these early district battles have been close and are coming down to overcoming quality pitching on a nightly basis.
“No, I mean they were all close games. There’s just good pitching and that’s just the way it is right now. You just got to fight to the finish, and that was a great indication [Wednesday night] that it is never over.”
Nothing speaks more to the strength of the quality pitching the Bulldogs have faced through the team’s first four games of district than the six total runs they have scored combined. However, the eleven runs total the team has given up in those four games is indicative of the strength of the Bulldogs 1-2 starters, seniors Will Cooper and Will Shumate.
After another outstanding performance on the mound Wednesday night, Cooper has undoubtedly become the Bulldogs number one arm despite battling some health issues, something Gatewood reiterated after the game Wednesday night.
“Cooper’s been our number one guy all year, and it’s nice to have him healthy and out there all year.”
But just in case the team ever needs a strong pitching performance to get a much-needed win, the Bulldogs are comfortable they can turn to Shumate, last week’s Vype Magazine Power Player of the Week Award winner.
“Last week Cooper couldn’t throw on Tuesday and Shumate went out there and threw a 2-0 shutout,” said Gatewood regarding last week’s win over Richardson Pearce. “He did the same thing tonight, came in and gave us a big inning and shut them down.”
Arguably the biggest difference from this years Bulldog squad compared to last years is the senior leadership on the field and in the locker room, a factor Shumate made clear when talking about his guys earlier this week.
“We are just trying to play our game no matter who we are playing. Our team this year is very well rounded; if something happens and we need to put someone else in, we have a person there ready to step in,” said Shumate.
“I feel like our senior leadership will play a big role in our pursuit of the playoffs, and I'm very excited about that.”
And if North needs any more evidence that 2012 is a brand new year, its victory over MHS on Wednesday was the first win in the Crosstown Showdown since the Bulldogs knocked off the Lions 2-0 on March 14th of 2008.
“It’s great,” said Shumate following Wednesday’s game. “I think we are the first group to beat those guys in a couple years so that’s always a good feeling.”
The Bulldogs look to add another victory when they travel to Highland Park on Friday night, which is currently tied in fifth place with North. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
Below is the remaining schedule for McKinney North:
Date: Team (Time)
March 23rd: @ Highland Park (7:30)
March 24th: vs. Little Elm (12) NON-DISTRICT
March 27th: vs. Rockwall (7:30)
March 30th: vs. Wylie (7:30)
April 3rd: vs. Wylie East (7:30)
April 5th: @ Richardson Pearce (7:30)
April 10th: vs. Rockwall Heath (7:30)
April 13th: @ McKinney (7:30)
April 14th: @ Little Elm (12) NON-DISTRICT
April 17th: vs. Highland Park (7:30)
April 20th: @ Rockwall (7:30)
April 27th: @ Wylie (7:30)
Photo by Dan Jarvis