Last year McKinney Boyd met Lake Highlands in the bi-district round of the state tournament. The Broncos took game one by a score of 11-4 and would later win the series in the decisive game three.
Even though head coach Brandon Milam may want to keep this best-of-three series to just two games, history repeated itself on Thursday night at Bronco Field as Boyd defeated Lake Highlands 8-2 to lead the series 1-0. In front of a packed house that was an absolute sea of red, the Broncos were led by another strong start by Cameron Sweeney, who pitched a complete game six-hitter, walking two and striking out four.
“It always starts on the mound for us. Cameron Sweeney did a great job and threw a complete game,” said Milam. “His pitch count was right around 80 so he did it efficiently with some good plays in the infield.”
The Broncos took advantage of Lake Highlands starter Sergio Soler, who struggled all night long with his consistency and his ability to hold base runners on. Soler only lasted an inning and a third, giving up all five of Boyd’s runs in the second inning.
For the past couple seasons, the Broncos have been known to be a small ball team that puts pressure on the opposing defense to make plays, something Lake Highlands could not do all night long. The Wildcats committed five errors on the evening, three occurring while trying to throw runners out on the base paths. When asked whether Boyd focused more on the small ball mentatlity in the game plan, Milam said that it is just the nature of the playoffs.
“It was tonight. We got ourselves in situations that we could swipe some bags and put pressure on their pitcher to throw strikes and be able to hold runners, and he didn’t do a very good job of doing that,” said Milam. “I think in the playoffs more than normal you are going to have these small ball type of games.”
After being done 1-0 heading into the bottom of the second inning, the Broncos were trying to take advantage of having base runners after stranding the bases loaded in the first. Up stepped the number nine hitter Jake Laster, who stayed alive earlier in the at-bat after the catcher misplayed the pop up behind home plater, to see if he could make something happen at the dish. With one massive swing of the bat, the ball sailed over the left-center field wall for a three-run homer, giving the Broncos the lead that they would never give back.
In the second inning, Evan Williams hit an RBI triple to the left-center gap to give the Broncos a 4-1 lead. Tommy Nawa and Will Hollis also had an RBI in the ballgame for the Broncos.
One of the most fascinating stats of the night had to come from glancing over the Boyd lineup and seeing four different hitters get hit by the pitch a total of six times. Lake Highlands pitchers Soler, Salvador Sanchez, and Brandon Terrell gave up seven walks to Broncos hitters while only striking out four. Base runners will kill you in the postseason, and if you combine that stat with the five errors in the field, Boyd did not have much difficulty in manufacturing runs.
Boyd will now travel to Lake Highlands High School on Friday night for game two of the best-of-three series. Last year the Broncos lost game two of the series versus the Wildcats 9-1, so they are hoping for different results this time around. However, with a team filled with youth and several key players with very little playoff experience, the first postseason road game will be a difficult task for the Broncos to overcome. When asked about what challenges going on the road could bring for his club, Milam seemed confident heading into the possible series clincher.
“We are going into an environment that brings out a lot of fans to their games. They have big crowds. They are not as rowdy as some of the district opponents that we play, but it is going to be a different environment with the grass and the shorter fence. We will be in the first base dugout and not third base like we are here, so there are some different things there. That’s why we are able to take pregame and get that out of us.”
“I feel like we are pretty prepared.”
Game two will begin at 8 p.m. at Lake Highlands High School.