Top-Ranked Wall Leaning on Experience Heading into Regional Quarterfinals
WALL, TX -- Heading into their regional quarterfinal bout with Alpine (18-8), the top-ranked Wall Hawks (31-0) are ready to lean on their lengthy postseason experience from the past two seasons.
The Hawks return eight players from their state game roster in 2017, four of which featured in the state tournament, and most of those players were on the field for their regional semifinal run a year ago. Head coach Jason Schniers feels that experience will go a long way as the playoffs continue.
“Any extra experience you can gain is very crucial,” Schniers said. “We’ve got eight seniors and some guys who’ve stepped up as juniors that maybe don’t necessarily have that playoff experience, but they’ve gained a lot of experience throughout the season. I think that plays a big part of feeling comfortable in tough situations, in situations where you’re up by a lot and being able to make plays at any time.”
That experience has led to confidence. If you were to watch Wall, you wouldn’t necessarily think they have a target on their back with how loose they play.
“These guys, they don’t feel any pressure or I can’t tell if they feel pressure,” Schniers said. “You’ve got the number one target on your back, they’re 31-0 and everyday at practice they’re the same easy-going, laid back guys and you can’t tell any difference in them. I don’t know if that’s experience, I don’t know if that’s confidence. That’s just these guys, they play with a lot of confidence. We’re rolling on a big time winning streak right now and hope to keep that going.”
That confidence has translated at the plate, too.
Wall has won their three playoff games via the run rule, including a 23-1 romp of Amarillo River Road to complete a two-game sweep. As a team, Wall is hitting .660 in the postseason with a total of 45 runs scored, 37 hits and 22 walks.
Highlighting the lineup that can hit from top to bottom is junior Caleb Heuertz, who’s hitting .800 with nine RBIs in 10 postseason at-bats. Heuertz feels this lineup is one of the best Wall has ever seen.
“I think this is the best lineup we’ve had come through Wall since I’ve been here or since the seniors have been here,” Heuertz said. “Everybody knows what they want to hit. Everybody knows what pitches to swing at. Everybody has a good eye on it and when they get their pitch, they can square it up pretty good.”
The Hawks have also relied on a loaded stable of pitchers to cruise to this point of the season. Having a true five-man rotation with two or three relief pitchers isn’t common at the Class 3A level and it’s something Wall doesn’t take for granted.
“It’s a great time knowing that the depth we have in our pitching rotation and knowing that, if one guy’s off his game one day, we’ve got four or five other guys who can step up and fill his shoes for that day,” senior pitcher Ryan Gully said. “We have a ton of arms. If we had to go to a game three, we’d have arms to throw that. Many teams don’t have such good options.”
“It’s big time because we feel like, if we can scratch three or four runs across, that gives us a big advantage at winning a game,” Schniers said. “The most runs we’ve given up is three runs all year. That’s a testament to these guys throwing strikes, challenging batters, not giving away free passes and plus you’re defense making plays behind you. We’ve been very fortunate. I’ve got six or seven guys that I feel confident, if it comes down to it and we need them on the mound, any of those guys can step up in that situation.”
Despite their confidence and dominant resume, Wall is not overlooking anyone in the postseason. They know anyone can win at this stage of the playoffs.
“It’s the third round of the playoffs, for sure,” Schniers said. “It’s gonna be a contest of who executes the best in big situations, which team comes up with clutch hits in a big situation. It’s the third round of the playoffs, anyone is capable of winning a series.”
Alpine proved that by sweeping Denver City last week. Denver City was the 16th team in the state for Class 3A.
“They did it in a fashion of pitching and defense by scores of 2-1 in both games,” Schniers said. “Our mindset at the plate is gonna have to be do the little things, find ways on, execute getting them over and get runs in. Hopefully our pitching -- it’s been a big strength of ours this year and it’s gonna need to continue to be this weekend to beat these guys.”
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