Cardinals team makes another trip to state

May 10, 2012 at 12:10 a.m.

SHINER - Expectations and tradition can be a burden, but not for this year's St. Paul baseball team.

The Cardinals look to repeat as TAPPS 1A/2A champions when they open state tournament play on Friday in Waco.

"They know they belong at the state tournament, but they know it's not going to be given to them," said St. Paul baseball coach Cole Franco.

St. Paul will be looking for its ninth TAPPS state baseball title. The Cardinals have made 18 TAPPS state tournament appearances in the last 24 seasons.

The Cardinals begin state tournament play against Bryan Brazos Christian on Friday at the Waco ISD baseball complex.

"We're going to play well tomorrow, we're going to get on base and we're going to score a lot of runs," said Franco about the semifinal game. "They have a good pitcher, but our confidence at the plate is real high right now."

Should they win, the Cardinals will play either Rowlett Rockwall Christian or Lake Jackson Brazosport at Red Murff Field on the University of Mary Hardin Baylor campus in Belton on Saturday.

The Cardinals have won 15 consecutive games and enter with a 19-6 record.

Franco said St. Paul's pitching depth has gone a long way in helping the team reach the state tournament.

The Cardinals have used nine different pitchers, five of which have won a game.

"It's great not to have to worry about throwing the whole game and not having anyone behind you since there's so many that can," said junior pitcher Jared Markham.

Markham leads the team in wins with an 8-1 record. The junior has a 1.20 ERA and has 65 strikeouts in 52 innings pitched.

"He brings a fun, relaxed approach to the mound, but he's so competitive," said Franco about Markham.

Junior pitcher Cole Hybner will start against Bryan Brazos Christian.

Hybner has a 0.47 ERA with 27 strikeouts in only 15 innings pitched.

This season, Dylan Barton has been a welcome addition to the St. Paul lineup.

At the plate, the junior is second on the team with a .547 average and 32 RBIs.

Even though he took a couple of years away from the game, Barton said he's already thought about winning a state title with St. Paul.

"It would be a real honor," Barton said. "We have two great baseball coaches and the player, we're like one big family."

Fellow junior Dakota Kresta leads the team with 43 RBIs to go with a .477 average.

The Cardinals have scored an average of 14 runs per game in district and postseason play, one big reason is base running.

Franco said that the change from aluminum bats has led to a decrease in home runs and extra base hits.

But he's utilized his team speed on the base path.

"Everyone of our guys is basically a running back on our football team, a skill guy on the football team or state champion runners from last weekend," Franco said. "We take advantage of that as much as possible."

The Cardinals have stolen 252 bases on 260 attempts with Barton's 52 leading the team.

"When they see a ball in the dirt, they know that they can go right then and there," Markham said.



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