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Dustin's Deep Drives (May 25)

Make no mistake, high school football in the great state of Texas is a religion. Friday night lights is a thing – as well as a book, television show, and movie – for many, many reasons. But Texas high school baseball is a huge deal in Texas, especially in certain cities. I spent Friday night in one of those places. This week’s condensed, two-game edition of Dustin’s Deep Drives recaps that trip and looks ahead to some fascinating playoff matchups:

College Station vs. Brenham

FIREMAN’S PARK – After a delicious stop at classic Brenham burger joint Dairy Bar, I made my way over to nearby Fireman’s Park, a gem for baseball in the state, for game two of a playoff series between two district rivals. When I arrived, I soon realized the entire city of Brenham was there to support its baseball team. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but it was the first game I’ve attended this season that required a lengthy quest to find parking before a long walk to the stadium. It felt like I stumbled into a taping for a “Visit Brenham” commercial or some independent film about a local sports team called the ‘Green Machine.’ You couldn’t look anywhere without seeing green and white. Brenham loves its baseball.

And its baseball team loves to hit, too. Behind junior outfielder Lane Sparks, Brenham claimed an early lead. After seeing five-straight quality changeups, College Station right-handed pitcher Ryland Urbanczyk challenged Sparks with a 90 MPH fastball. The athletic, projectable left-handed hitter was ready and hammered the fastball off the wall in dead-center field.

It was an impressive display of pitch recognition and timing; most hitters at the high school level will fail to time a 90 MPH hitter well enough to hit it off the center field wall even when they know it’s coming. Sparks looked every bit of a D1 caliber prospect who should attract attention from college coaches this summer. He tracked the ball well and naturally in center field and showed he could have a chance at solid or better future tools across the board besides the power.

However, Urbanczyk got the best of Sparks the next at-bat when he caught the junior guessing changeup in a 3-2 count and beat him with a third-straight fastball for a strikeout with runners on base. Sparks would later ground out, and his at-bats could be used as the theme of the game; once Urbanczyk, a Rice signee, settled in, he was unhittable. Literally.

Texas A&M signee Blake Binderup delivered the big blast with a homer to help College Station claim a 3-2 lead and Urbanczyk went to work by retiring 15-straight batters to finish a complete game. He gave up just two runs on five hits and struck out nine. Although the changeup, which was thrown 75-77 MPH, is the standout pitch, Urbancyzk’s outing changed when he found feel for his slider (76-77 MPH) and began throwing it with conviction. It flashed as an above-average pitch and definitely one that could be used at the next level. Although the right-hander’s fastball (86-90 MPH) played down, the inclusion of the slider led to some called strikes, especially once he began showing some command to his glove side.

Physically, Urbanczyk looks like a future workhorse in a weekend rotation. With big legs and a tall frame that includes a thin upper half/arms that will fill out and change in a college strength program, he has the profile – physical build, delivery and stuff – to throw deep into games on a consistent basis in a weekend rotation. What has been especially impressive about the way Urbancyzk ended this season is he’s looked strong deep into games after coming off elbow surgery. Sometimes, it takes young pitchers time to regain the feel of their stuff and control in addition to their ability to throw deep into games. That’s not an issue for Urbanczyk.

Fortunately for Brenham, he couldn’t throw the next game, too. The Cubs won the deciding game three and their lineup went to work. Hitting leadoff in the game I saw, junior catcher Jacob Mabie hammered a double to the wall in right-center and again stood out like he did when I saw Brenham earlier this season. It’s definitely a bat-first profile, but he has some feel for the barrel. Recent Angelina College commit Mason Lampe made hard contact multiple times, recognized pitches well and also came in to relieve, which allowed Brenham to stick in the game. Seminole State commitment Cade Warmke looks like a great get because he’s athletic, can run, and hit the ball hard multiple times from the left side.

It’s been a treat to watch Brenham this season because of its steady competitiveness in the batter’s box. Well done, coaching staff. As for College Station, it’ll be back in the mix next season despite losing studs on the mound – Binderup, Urbanczyk, Luke Steward, and Amar Tsengeng. College coaches need to start following 2025 right-hander Holden Hering. At 6-3, 215 pounds, Hering is already touching 86 MPH with a promising three-pitch mix.

Lake Travis vs. Clark

DRIPPING SPRINGS HIGH SCHOOL – If the Starbucks just outside Dripping Springs High School had a punch card, I would have enjoyed a free iced latte by now. What turned into a home away from home welcomed me again last Thursday for a powerhouse 6A matchup between Lake Travis and San Antonio Clark. It was my first chance to see talented two-way player and Baylor signee Ethan Calder on the mound for Lake Travis. He carried a no-hitter into the fourth inning and pitched his team to a victory.

I think Calder is a position player at the next level because of his feel for hitting and left-handed swing, but a program can never have enough left-handers who can come in and throw strikes. Calder can throw strikes and did so with his three-pitch mix: fastball (83-86 MPH), curveball (73-75 MPH) and changeup (75-77 MPH). His curveball was the standout pitch thanks to its short, sharp downward break that really bothered Clark hitters. As Calder, who pitched into the 7th inning, worked through the lineup multiple times, he mixed in his fading changeup to his arm side against right-handers more often, allowing his fastball to play up a little bit.

Calder ran out of gas with a 5-1 lead in the seventh inning, and with the bases loaded and no outs, Lake Travis called on senior shortstop Kaeden Kent. Calmly and without expression, Kent recorded a shallow fly out, strikeout and fly out to end the game and preserve the victory. He also had the most productive night at the plate, too. The left-handed hitter walked, and smacked two hard, line drive singles, including a RBI single to make it 2-0 late in the contest before Cole Johnson’s three-RBI double with two outs cleared the bases. Johnson continued to consistently come through with the bat for Lake Travis, something he’s done at a very high level throughout the playoffs.

It was a quiet night for Clark bats until the final innings when it saw Calder for a third time. TCU signee and right-handed hitting shortstop Anthony Silva smacked a hard line drive single into the right-center gap to pump some life into his dugout. But it wasn’t enough and Silva’s decorated high school career ended the next night when Lake Travis won to advance. Silva will hand the leadership at Clark over to players like his brother, 2024 switch-hitting catcher Jacob Silva and standout right-handed sophomore pitcher Jake Neely.

Some of the matchups I’m looking forward to this weekend…

I suppose I could list every single matchup because they’re all good at this point in the season. But a few that stand out in particular:

6A Region I
Southlake Carroll vs. Coppell
Carroll has received some brilliant performances on the mound from the likes of Griffin Herring (LSU) and we know it’s as talented as any team in the state. Meanwhile, Coppell keeps figuring out ways to win games and is a very strong team mentally.

6A Region II
Rockwall vs. The Woodlands
The Woodlands’ starting pitching is deep, talented and clicking at the right time but it’ll meet one of the top lineups in the state.

6A Region III
Ft. Bend Ridge Point vs. Pearland
Ridge Point knocked off nationally ranked Tompkins and swings the bat one through nine as well as any team in the state. Meanwhile, Pearland is on fire and led by the likes of two-way stud Caden Ferraro (Texas A&M), who has been hitting bombs throughout the playoffs.

5A Region II
Frisco Lone Star vs. Forney
Could we get Dominick Reid (Oklahoma State) versus Aidan Sims in Thursday’s matchup? That could be the top pitching matchup in the state and one of the best in the nation.

5A Region IV
Georgetown vs. Corpus Christi Ray
I recall some guy at Five Tool labeling Georgetown as a team that finds ways to win games and could win a state title. I bet that guy is pretty smart. But that guy – okay, I’m referring to myself, if you haven’t figured it out – knows Georgetown has its hands full this weekend against Ray, one of the best teams in the state and maybe nation. Keep an eye on Ray junior shortstop Jack Bell (Arizona State), who could be emerging as one of the best infielders in the nation.

4A Region III
China Spring vs. Orangefield
Two powerhouse teams used to winning meet with everything on the line.

4A Region IV
Boerne vs. Corpus Christi Calallen
Justin Lamkin will face Boerne, one of the top performing lineups in 4A. Buckle up.

Dustin McComas
Senior Editor
Five Tool Baseball