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20110429-HL-Sharyland-BaseballRhetoric can only go so far. Sometimes plain old-fashioned statistics get the job done. Such is the case in baseball where stats like 714 (Babe Ruth's home run record), 2,632 (Cal Ripken Jr.'s consecutive games played) and 56 (Joe DiMaggio's consecutive games with at least one hit) are not only numbers, but represent greatness and are etched into every baseball enthusiast's mind.

For the ball club at Sharyland High School, the 2011 season has seen Bart Bickerton's squad put up historic numbers such as 28-1, .428, 13-0 and no. 2. What do these mean? That is a 28-1 win/loss record (top in the state), a .428 team batting average (on pace for a school record), a 13-0 District 30-5A record (an amazing feat in a district with top heavy powerhouses La Joya and McHi) and no. 2, the team's ranking in the latest Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association Poll. In short, this is one heck of a baseball team.

Coming into the season, Bickerton knew his team was going to be good. After all, the Rattlers had nearly every hitter back from a 2010 team that finished as district runners-up and went on to the regional quarterfinals. However, whereas previous Rattler teams would often peak either right before or right after district play, this team is on all four cylinders, and getting better each week.

Which bring us to tonight. Sharyland has an opportunity to go undefeated in district and take sole ownership of the district title by beating the McHi Bulldogs (20-8, 11-2)—last year's champs.

“We already clinched the title,” says Bickerton, “but we definitely, definitely want to beat them for the title game.”

20110429-HL-Sharyland-Baseball-01Up to this point, Bickerton says, the key has been exceptional hitting combined with solid pitching. Part of the reason the batting average of .428 is so high is because four players are putting up some ridiculous numbers: Oscar Gonzalez is hitting .556 and leads the team in hits and runs with 57 and 44 respectively; Brian Valencia is also batting above .500 and is second for the team in RBI's with 40; Eric Gutierrez, the team's top slugger, is batting with an average of exactly .600, has a team leading 54 RBI's and seven home runs. Fernando Martinez also contributes, hitting just below .500 at .493.

“I knew we would be good offensively,” Bickerton explains, “but I think we have even exceeded what we expected. [Our team batting average] is unheard of.”

The coaches have also received some help from Tres Barrera. Barrera transferred from Hidalgo and is one of the few new faces on the team. However, the transfer has come in and made his mark in both hitting and pitching. Though he bats a respectable .395, Barrera leads the team in strikeouts from the mound with 44, and is second on the team in wins with five.

The team’s leader in wins is Fernando Martinez, who has eight so far. Also contributing from the mound are Roy Ortiz (four wins), Eric Gutierrez (five wins), Martin Trevino (three wins) and Brian Valencia (two wins).

“Our pitchers have done what is expected of them and that is to throw strikes.”
Tonight's game with McHi will be a test to see if the Rattlers can maintain their high level of play. Good teams often begin to coast, but Bickerton is hoping his team will continue to play to their potential.

Strong play will definitely be needed as the playoffs loom. In an ironic twist, Sharyland's bi-district matchup may be its toughest game of the year. The fourth place team from District 29-5A is Laredo United. However, the Longhorns are the top team in their district, but had to forfeit seven district games due to the playing of an ineligible player. As a result, their official win/loss record puts them in the fourth spot while their field record is the same as the Rattlers: 28-1.

Yes, despite being the no. 2 team in the state, Sharyland knows such talk means nothing if they don't keep winning.

“We are ranked every year so it is not a big surprise,” Bickerton concludes. “And really to be ranked every year and not win state, who cares? What matters to us is the final standings.”

For Sharyland, enough of the talk. From here on out it’s time to put up the stats needed to win.

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