It’s pretty much a given that every round a team progresses in the state playoffs, the opponents seem to get tougher.
Occasionally there’s a fluke, but each step is usually that much harder.
That’s where Carthage coach John Goodwin is when he talks about the Bulldogs’ Region III-4A semifinal opponents — the fourth-ranked Sweeny Bulldogs.
“Sweeny is probably the most talented team we’ve played all year,” Carthage High head coach John Goodwin said. “They’ve go six or seven Division I players. They’re primarily the same team that lost to Argyle in the state championship game last season.
“They’re solid everywhere you look. Their catcher has a D-1 arm and they have a D-1 arm in the infield as well. You don’t see any real weaknesses on this team.
Sweeny comes into Thursday’s Game 1 with 26-7 record, while Carthage is 26-5-1. Gametime is set for 7 p.m. at Don Saunders Field at Sam Houston State in Huntsville.
Game 2 is set for Saturday at 4 p.m. at Lamar University in Beaumont. Should a third game be necessary it would 30 minutes after Game 2 at the same site.
Joe Effenberger leads the Sweeny tam in hitting with a .438 average, driving in 39 runs and a tam-high five HRs. Caden Homniok is hitting .412 with 31 RBIs, eight doubles and six triples, while Wes Foise is hitting .383 with 12 doubles.
In all, the Bulldogs have seven others hitting in the .300s with Quinton Martin adding 21 RBI.
Jackson Kidding is 8-0 with a 0.18 ERA and 60 strikeouts, while Homniok is 8-2 with a 1.69 ERA and 66 strikeouts, Nathan Nance is 4-3 with 37 strikeouts and Martin wih 2-1 record, 25 strikeouts and 3.10 ERA.
Of course, there is no guarantee that Sweeny coach Mark Durham and his assistants aren’t saying the same things about the Carthage Dawgs.
“We like our talent and we’re pitching really, really well right now,” Goodwin said. “Seth (Smith) and Jackson (Blissett) are going to give us a shot against anybody. When we get inside pitching and minimize the amount of walks we give up we can go at anybody in any game.”
Although the Bulldogs have had their share of long ball on offense earlier in the season, they have had to rely on small ball on a few occasions as well. Goodwin as plenty of confidence in it.
“I think we’re doing a better job getting drag bunts down and putting some pressure on the other teams,” Goodwin said. “When we make it tough to pitch to us and get the stolen base when we need to.”
Dylan Leach leads the team with a .453 average, 42 RBI, six HRs and 10 doubles, Brandon McNeely is hitting .354, Gunner Caps is hitting .347 with 21 RBIs, Mason Bobo is hitting .333, with 23 RBI and 35 runs and Mackeson Bob is hitting .296.
As a team the Bulldogs have a 1.767 ERA with 257 strikeouts and 117 walks. Seth Smith leads the way with a 9-0 record, 92 strikeouts and 1.03 ERA, while Mackenson Bobo is 6-1 with 1.267 ERA and 32 strikeouts. Jackson Blissett is 2-1 with 35 strikeouts. Nathan Bailey is 4-0 and Brandon McNeely is 3-1.
Goodwin like where his team is right now.
“Everything is on the upbeat and everybody is positive,” he said. “We’re motivated to go out there and play hard.”