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MARBLE FALLS — When it comes to the baseball diamond, coaches spend a lot of time looking at one position – pitcher.

Some might tell you great pitching beats great hitting.

However, both the Marble Falls High School baseball (6-8) and softball (4-16) programs were in the same dilemma at the end of last year’s season.

Both squads graduated their ace pitchers, Casey Goodman in baseball and Taylor Hoffmans in softball.

Hoffmans’ loss was especially difficult. She finished school as the program’s career leader in wins (43) and was a starting pitcher for four seasons.

Goodman lost no more than seven games in two seasons for the Mustangs.

So shortly after returning from the Christmas break, head coaches David Orsag in softball and David Norwood in baseball set out to find the next great Mustang pitchers.

Looking for the next ace

When it comes to softball, pitchers are more like tennis players or golfers because they tend to dominate, similar to individual sports. A great pitcher can lead the team to the playoffs and give the team a chance to win on any level.

Hoffmans was able to do that. As a freshman, she led the Lady Mustangs to a play-in when they were in a three-way tie for third place.

As a senior, Hoffmans took the team back to the playoffs, where they lost to eventual state champion New Braunfels Canyon in the area round of the playoffs.

But now that she’s in the Red McCombs Business School at the University of Texas at Austin, Marble Falls is trying to find a pitcher who can lead the team into the postseason.

That player is junior Payton Peril, Orsag said.

Like Hoffmans, Peril is not an overpowering pitcher. And that’s just fine with the coach.

Against Granger, the junior “was making them hit outs,” Orsag said.

That means she forced them to hit into routine plays such as groundouts, popups and flyballs.

Peril managed the game, the coach said.

After Peril, the Lady Mustangs have relied on freshman Alicia Macias.

When Macias had to leave for several days because of a family emergency, sophomore Taylor Koska stepped in.

Just like Peril, Macias and Koska have been forcing opponents to hit into routine outs.

Because all three pitchers manage the game, according to Orsag, the defense has to make plays behind them.

Marble Falls is 4-16, showing that errors are costly, but those aren’t necessarily traced to the pitching, Orsag said.

And he knows his squad can’t afford to give opponents more than three outs an inning.

“If we don’t make a bunch of errors, we have a chance against anybody,” he said.

This year’s Mustangs’ staff

The Mustangs knew a year ago their No. 1 pitcher was going to be junior Brian Hicks. Hicks was the No. 3 pitcher behind Goodman and Thor Woerner, who now plays football for Abilene Christian University.

Hicks (2-1) has performed well. He has pitched 14 1/3 innings and has an ERA of 1.95. He has given up four earned runs and eight hits, complete with 23 strikeouts and 12 walks.

Senior Cooper Bowen (2-1-1) is the No. 2 starter behind Hicks. He has an ERA of 3.06 in 16 innings pitched. He has given up seven earned runs and seven hits. He has recorded 18 strikeouts and 12 walks.

Norwood has said his goal is to develop a complete pitching staff that includes undisputed starters, some middle relievers and a closer.

The goal is to use senior Justin Garcia (0-1)  as the closer. He has an ERA of 7.00 in seven innings pitched. He has three strikeouts and four walks.

But a sore shoulder has kept him off the mound, Norwood said.

“We’ve kind of been holding him out for a while,” he said.

Those are only three of the 11 pitchers coaches have used.

“We’re giving everybody an opportunity in our nondistrict schedule,” Norwood said. “We’re trying to get a bunch of kids to throw. We’ll continue to work with all of them and see how they will fit into the puzzle.”

Other game winners include sophomore Derek Steffek (1-2-1) and freshman Cole Ridgley (1-0).

Steffek has been used as the No. 3 starter during the tournament season. He has a 3.06 ERA in 16 innings pitched. He has given up four hits and seven earned runs. He has nine strikeouts and five walks.

Ridgley won his varsity debut. He gave up four hits and four earned runs with an ERA of 7.00 in four innings pitched. He has five strikeouts and five walks.

What impressed Norwood was that Ridgley beat Austin Travis on a day his fastball wasn’t working.

The freshman had to rely on his changeup and his curveball to get the job done, the Mustangs skipper said.

The pitcher did not have to communicate to the coaches his fastball wasn’t as effective as they hoped.

“We could see that,” Norwood said. “You have to have other pitches you can go to. Then you don’t have to have your best stuff.”

Good pitchers have to sometimes adjust their philosophy, the coach said.

“(Pitchers) think they have to strike out everybody,” he said. “I think the attitude is to throw strikes and change speeds.”