There might not be a tougher tournament in the nation than the Class 5A state tournament in Texas. The process takes more than a month to complete and teams may play as many as 14 games before claiming a state championship.
Last year Martin came within one game of winning it all. After winning the Region I championship with a 2-1 series victory over Carroll (Southlake), Martin fell to Cypress Ranch 6-0 in the semifinals of the state tournament. Cypress Ranch went on to win the state title.
Although Martin loses some key seniors to graduation, including district MVP Nick Hendrix, it has a number of talented players returning with the playoff experience necessary to make another run at the state championship.
"We have good team defense and team speed and we should be able to hit a little bit," said Warriors coach Curt Culbertson, who has won 425 games in his tenure with the team. "We hope to be playing our best baseball by the end of the season."
Martin begins the season ranked No. 4 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 Preseason National Baseball Rankings. MaxPreps is counting down the top 10 teams in the country to start the season with the rest of the Xcellent 25 scheduled to be released Feb. 19.
The Warriors return nine lettermen from last year's team that went 37-6-1 and gave Martin its third 30-win season in the past six seasons. The lineup is particularly stacked in the outfield, where All-District players Drew Dowdy
and sophomore Josh Watson
Dowdy is the top returning offensive player for the Warriors. An All-Area pick last season by the Dallas Morning News, Dowdy batted .407 with three home runs and 26 RBIs. Watson, meanwhile, batted .339 as a freshman with five doubles and 12 RBIs.Matt Waller
, an All-District outfielder last year, moves behind the plate this season. He batted .417 with 10 doubles and 29 RBIs. Another part-time outfielder, Anthony Lyons
, will handle the DH duties after earning All-District Team honors last season while batting .381 with 29 RBIs.Tyler Kendrick
, another All-District player, is back at second base. He hit .333 with six doubles and 22 RBIs.
Martin also boasts one of the top young aces in the state in junior pitcher Turner Larkins
. As a sophomore, Larkins was named the Newcomer of the Year by the Dallas Morning News after going 11-0 with a 1.28 ERA and 62 strikeouts in 62 innings pitched.
Culbertson also hopes a solid group of newcomers will help fill in the missing pieces. Senior outfielder Brock Schneider
and juniors Brandon Swaim
(catcher), Landon Sackett
(1B), Daniel Lingua
(P/3B), Tyler Sherer
(OF) are all expected to contribute this year.