Varsity baseball make playoffs after 4 years



The Varsity baseball team will be going up against Lake Travis for playoffs

Taylor Chronert, Staff Reporter

Last Tuesday, varsity baseball went up against Round Rock to see who would take the final spot for the playoffs out of District 25. After seven innings, the Vipers ended up taking the last spot in the playoffs, winning with a final score of 3-0. 

“We went in there knowing we were going to win because we played them for the first game of the district season and we won that game,” senior outfielder and pitcher Cade Cunningham said. “And, we knew we had to get through their first pitcher to get to the bullpen to end up scoring runs and of course, making playoffs after four years is exciting.”

The last time the varsity baseball team entered the playoffs was the 2018 season where they played against Reagan High School in San Antonio. 

“If we do win this year, this will be the first time in history that we have won a playoff game and as a senior, having the opportunity to do that my senior year is pretty special,” Cunningham said.

 Junior pitcher and right fielder Connor Freeman said that during the game when he saw the final score, he was really excited to make it to the playoffs. 

“It was a win or go home situation, so it was really exciting and since we won, we knew we were going to go to the playoffs, and it’s just very exciting,” Freeman said.

 This is the varsity baseball team’s first time in four years to make it to playoffs, but also the first time for head baseball coach Jarod Hickle. It’s Hickle’s first year as head coach and the first time that he’ll be going to playoffs since he started coaching for the team.

“It’s so surreal,” Hickle said. “You sit there and dream about these moments as a coach and as a player of winning the big game, and it’s even more special as a coach because you get the chance to see young players achieve a goal that was set out at the beginning of the season and all of their hard work, time, and energy paid off.”

The win was led by junior batter Hudson Lillie who scored the last home run and senior pitcher Daniel Farrow who threw the winning strikeout.

“In the first game of the season and first district game against Round Rock, [Farrow] went in and threw a whole complete game and he did the exact same thing this last game,” junior and pitcher MD Connor said. “He just dealt with keeping his composure throughout the whole game, and we just love that guy.”

Some of the strategies and tactics the team used in this particular game were not only swinging the bat but also throwing strikes on the defensive side to get the other team out.

“We knew we had to throw strikes, and we knew we just had to be clean in the field so we did that and it worked out well,” junior pitcher  Austin Spieles said.

Since it was the biggest game of the season, a ton of Vandegrift students and parents showed up to watch the game. Cunningham said that it felt so amazing seeing the stands all filled up with students and parents cheering them on.

“I’ve never seen games this season that packed ever in the past four or five seasons,” Cunningham said. “It just shows that our fan base and support has grown exponentially in the past three years.”

When talking about the relationship with the seniors, Hickle mentioned how they helped them get to where they are in their season. The journey started off with Hickle working with them as an assistant coach and now as a head coach.

“We had a group text and it said ‘Seniors are the Brand’ and the motto is ‘Build the Brand,’ but the seniors are the brand,” Hickle said. “These guys are the ones that really fueled this team and helped build what we have become so far this season.”

To help them prepare for the upcoming playoff games, the team has been having light practices every day in the afternoon from 3-5 p.m. where they work on batting, pitching, defense, as well as striking people out and coming up with new strategies for the games. 

“We are also getting our rest and recovery and making sure our bodies our good,” Spieles said, “This week, the week of playoffs, we’ll definitely get to work and get ready, form a game plan, got out and win.” 

As a coach, when it comes to the team playing in the playoffs, Hickle says that it’s more about the team setting the goals and not him as a coach.

“We set out the season to be champions, and we made playoffs and right now we are a team that has made playoffs, and with the win in this first round, it will make us bi-district champs,” Hickle said. 

When it comes to the team and the athletes, their main goal is to make it to the state tournament and become state champions.

“Our goal was to make it to the playoffs first, so I think we are just going to go game by game, and obviously, we want to go to the state championship, and it’s going to take a lot of work to get there, but we are definitely capable of it,” Connor said.

This week is their first round 3-game series against District 26 winner Lake Travis. Game 1 is at home at 7:30 p.m. Friday with Game 2 at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Lake Travis with the if-necessary Game 3 to follow.

“If you know [Lake Travis], they are a really good baseball program,” Connor said. “They all have really good pitchers this year. [I’m] pretty sure all of them are going to really good baseball colleges, so we are going to go play our game and show them up.”