With 32 wins and four defeats, the Carroll (Southlake)
baseball team is forging its best record in Larry Hughes' 17 seasons as head coach.
That's saying something for a program, that, under Hughes, has never had a losing season and failed only once to reach the postseason.
With Marcus (Flower Mound) in a Class 5A Region I semifinal best-of-three series on the horizon, there‘s a chance to add some more wins. Carroll hosts Game 1 at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday. Marcus hosts Game 2 at Friday evening and if necessary, Game 3 is set for 2 p.m. Saturday at Grapevine.
Last week in a best-of-three regional quarterfinal series against Midland in Abilene, Carroll pulled out two dramatic one-run victories for a sweep.
Hughes, who earlier this season accomplished his milestone 500th career victory as well as No. 400 at Carroll, was selected as the Dallas High Yield Coach of the Week presented by Capital One Bank.
In Game 1 against Midland, Carroll rallied from a 4-0 deficit after 5 1/2 innings to win, 5-4, on a three-run walk-off home run by Kenny Hill
(son of former major leaguer Ken Hill) with one out in the bottom of the seventh. Hill, quarterback of the football team, has signed with Texas A&M.
The following day, Chris Altimont
went 4-for-5 with two doubles, a home run and five RBIs as Carroll held off a late Midland comeback for a 9-8 series-clinching win.
The preceding week in the area series victory over San Angelo, Altimont won Game 1 with a three-run homer.
"It's tough to say if this is the best team I've had,'' said Hughes. "Record-wise, it is the best. From a pitching standpoint, it is the best. Our team ERA is under 2.00 and in district it was under 1.00. But offensively, I don't think it is the best. We've had trouble scoring, but we do seem to have those intangibles.''
Heading up the pitching staff is TCU signee Tyler Alexander
, a 6-2 left-hander with a 12-0 record. He's part of the reason Carroll's pitching staff has thrown 15 shutouts this season, including eight in the 14-game District 4-5A schedule.
From the time that kids in Southlake are old enough to put on a uniform, they grow up idolizing and wanting to play for the Dragons. And now, with lights added to the Carroll baseball field for the first time this season, the Dragons play at more fan-friendly evening start times.
"At Carroll, it is about winning state championships,'' Hughes said. "I'm not worried about win-loss records. In the tournaments, I have a big roster and I play everybody. Sure, that hurts your record at times, but you find out some good things, too.''
Carroll is best known for football successes. In 2011, the Dragons won their eighth state football title, tying with Celina for the most in Texas high school history.
Under Hughes, the baseball team won the Class 4A state title in 2002 and made it to the Class 5A state championship game again in 2008.
"It is such a hard thing to do, to win state,'' said Hughes. "You've got to have at least three solid arms, you've got to be good, you've got to get some calls and you've got to hope you don't run into a hot team.''
Hughes said he is prouder of going over 400 wins at Carroll (he's now 409-192-6) than he was for getting career win No. 500 back in March.
"I wanted to stay in one place, so I think I'm prouder of 400 at one school,'' said Hughes.
In his own high school days at MacArthur (Irving), Hughes was schooled in the game's finer points by coach Lance Brown.
Hughes continued his baseball career at SMU, which dropped the sport shortly after he graduated.
Fresh out of college, he began his coaching career at Cedar Hill and went on to become an assistant for his old college coach at First Baptist Academy. Hughes got out of coaching from 1984-1990 and entered the business world.
But he couldn't get baseball out of his system. He re-entered coaching at Thomas Jefferson (Dallas) and that paved the way to Carroll in 1997.
Hughes, 56, and wife Suzanna have five sons and two daughters. Four have already graduated from college and two more are attending Baylor.