Marble Falls, Burnet, Kingsland, Llano, Spicewood, Horseshoe Bay, and ALL of the Highland Lakes
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MARBLE FALLS — When J.T. Blair became the Marble Falls High School head baseball coach in the summer of 2012, he didn’t give a rah-rah speech or outline his vision for the program.
Instead, his players told him what was going to happen. They were going to be really good and compete for the District 25-4A title.
And they were right. Marble Falls (23-9, 13-5 in 2013) led until the very last week of the regular season and advanced to the second round of the playoffs before bowing out to San Antonio Alamo Heights.
One year later, Blair said the mindset hasn’t changed, even if several key players, including the top two pitchers, graduated.
“Last year, we had guys who thought they could make the playoffs,” he said. “This year, we have guys who know they can make the playoffs. Because of the groundwork that has been laid in 2012 and 2013, we now know the recipe for success.”
Marble Falls won 11 one-run games and five two-run games last season. So the Mustangs have been working very hard on being offensive, Blair said, by camping out in batting cages in pursuit of the perfect swing.
“I have to run them out of (the cages),” he said. “They stay to hit after practice; they’re hitting on the weekends; they’re practicing hitting before practice.
“I’ve been really pleased at how well we look at swinging the ball,” he added. “Some of our guys are getting the rust off. We’ve been swinging the bat well in practice. I think this will be one of the best offensive teams I’ve had.”
Senior pitcher Garrett Winslett (5-1 in 2013), who was selected as a honorable mention by district coaches last season, is expected to anchor the staff. He gave up 28 earned runs off 65 hits with 41 walks and 32 strikeouts last year.
Blair said Winslett has been putting in extra time in preparing for the season.
“He’s really working hard on his body,” the coach said. “He’s in a lot better shape than he was last year. He’s made an effort to get stronger. This is the hardest I’ve seen him throw. His velocity is as good as I’ve seen it.”
Other pitchers include Lane Amidon, Domenic Patterson and Josh Phillips, who all played summer league baseball last year.
Blair believes the district competition will not be easier this season and noted his players faced solid pitchers every contest in 2013.
“I really think up and down, we’re going to see a solid team. Every school is going to have a solid team,” he said. “It’s going to come down to who makes the fewest mistakes.”
One of the big differences this year is there will not be 18 district contests. Instead, the teams will play 12 games. Blair said the reason is because the University Interscholastic League has capped the number of contests teams can play.
The Mustangs will scrimmage Brownwood at 3 p.m. Feb. 8 at Scearce Field, 2101 Mustang Drive.
“I think we’re exactly where we’re supposed to be right now,” Blair said. “This is where I’ve seen us all along. We’ve created a culture of this is what it’s going to take to be successful. Our kids have risen to the challenge of the work they need to be doing.”