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HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL: Alpine fighting to write another chapter in school history at regional championships - Odessa American: Oavarsity

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HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL: Alpine fighting to write another chapter in school history at regional championships

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Posted: Wednesday, June 1, 2016 9:46 pm

Isaac Gallego heard stories about the playoff run the Alpine baseball team made in 1994.

Gallego’s cousins, Ben Gallego and Danny-jo Villanueva, were part of the last time the Fightin’ Bucks made the Class 3A UIL State Baseball Championships.

Alpine is knocking on the door for its first trip to the state tournament in 22 years as the Fightin’ Bucks play No. 3-ranked Shallowater in a three-game series for the Region 1-3A championship beginning at 7 tonight at Christensen Stadium in Midland.

Isaac Gallego said his family members believe the one common characteristic between the 1994 and 2016 teams is the ability to play as a team. Ben Gallego finished his senior campaign with 15-2 record on the mound, but the Fightin’ Bucks lost the state semifinal game to Hooks.

“My cousins said that we are playing better than they were back then,” Isaac Gallego said. “We are playing as a team. It’s not all about one person, because if it’s just about one person that’s showing that we aren’t playing as a team and we wouldn’t have the capability to get this far, but we aren’t like that. We play as one.”

The Fightin’ Bucks have shown their combined team play throughout the postseason whether it was on the mound, in the field or at the plate.

Alpine has averaged 11.4 runs per contest — which included five of eight games with 10 or more runs. The Fightin’ Bucks have limited their opponents to 6.5 runs as their lone playoff loss came against Littlefield.

“One of our main objectives is to have good offensive appearances,” Alpine head coach Adam Llanez said. “We got to stay focused at the plate. That’s something our program really harps on is being productive at the plate. At the end of the ballgame, your team has to have the higher number on the scoreboard or you don’t win. We have to make sure we stay focused and disciplined at the plate.

“We attack strikes. If it’s a strike, we are going to be swinging at it. We are always ready for a strike. The boys know that we are a good offensive team and we are always ready to swing the bat.”

During the playoffs, the Fightin’ Bucks have balanced school, baseball and track and field. Alpine’s graduation took place on Friday, the UIL State Track and Field Championships wrapped up May 13 and now all the team has to focus on is baseball.

Alpine senior Christian Morris, who has participated in all three of those end of the season activities, said it’s relieving for the team to focus only on baseball.

“School takes off a little bit of stress, but we use that time to work even harder in practice,” Morris said. “We’ve been putting in some real hard work this whole time, but without school it has been that much better.”

The Fightin’ Bucks haven’t played Shallowater (30-3-2) during the regular season, but they know their opponent well. The Mustangs knocked out Alpine in the regional quarterfinals a year ago.

After Shallowater defeated Alpine in that three-game series, Gallego hoped the Fightin’ Bucks would have another chance at the Mustangs.

“We have been waiting for this moment since day one,” Gallego said. “We have already accomplished two goals and we want to accomplish a third and that’s to make the state tournament. Shallowater is another team in our way of accomplishing another one of our goals.”

Llanez, an Alpine alumni who is in his first season as the head baseball coach of the Fightin’ Bucks, said it feels good to be one of the final eight teams left in Class 3A. The Fightin’ Bucks have ousted No. 18 Clyde, Littlefield — a 2015 state tournament finalist, Friona and Lubbock Roosevelt.

Since Llanez graduated from Alpine in 1999, he watched that 1994 team make a run to the state tournament. The first-year head coach said it’s a special feeling watching another Fightin’ Bucks team make a postseason run and hopes the children around town can have that same thrill that he had when he was younger.

“I was playing summer league baseball when the Bucks were still at Kokernot Field practicing,” Llanez said. “It was exciting to see those guys still playing baseball when school was out.

“All the kids are out running around town and most of us were in summer leagues. We were at our baseball practices watching those guys have baseball practice. I hope the kids this generation feel the same way. There’s no school going on, but we are still playing.”

Odessa, TX

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