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The student news site of Kingwood Park High School

KP TIMES

The student news site of Kingwood Park High School

KP TIMES

Tough stretch ahead as baseball team prepares for playoffs

Senior+Andrew+Hennings+pitches+against+Porter+on+March+19.+He+threw+a+no-hitter+against+Nacogdoches+on+March+15.+
Emily McKithern
Senior Andrew Hennings pitches against Porter on March 19. He threw a no-hitter against Nacogdoches on March 15.

Senior Andrew Hennings pitched a no-hitter in the district opener against Nacogdoches on March 12. It was already the 15th win of the season and set the standard for the district run ahead. 

“It was a lot of fun and definitely nerve wracking, because I wanted to get it, and it was against Nacogdoches,” Hennings said. “It was aligned perfectly. Everything worked out. The defense was playing well, and we just had a good game.”

The team comes out from the dugout to celebrate a walk-off hit by senior Jaxson Lindsey to capture the win against Conroe High School in the Humble ISD Tournament. (Emily McKithern)

Following the no-hitter, the team made the decision to wear the same uniforms into the next game, hoping to carry some of the good luck with them. However, the team’s consistent victories suggest that they have not had to rely on luck or superstition, despite being tested in preseason against some of the best teams in the state.

The team has continued to rack up the district victories, currently sitting at a record of 21-7, 8-4 in district. They are second in district competition. Lufkin leads the district with Porter close behind Kingwood Park.

“I think [a challenging pre-district schedule] has helped a lot because we play 6A teams, and we play a lot of the better teams in the Houston area,” assistant coach Blake Ford said. “And some of our opponents in district didn’t do that. I think it gave us an advantage, especially early in district. [We have seen] better pitching and better hitters, that maybe some of the others didn’t see this year.”

Entering district off the back of a very competitive pre-district schedule, District 16-5A has proven to be no easier. Kingwood Park, Porter, and Lufkin all rank within the top 20 class 5A teams in Texas, and there are no easy games.

The Panthers will face Lufkin and Porter in their final three games of the regular season. They play Porter at home on April 19 before traveling to face Lufkin on the road April 23. The team’s final regular season game will be against Lufkin at home on April 26.

Cody Jenkins watches the bunt he played against Huntsville on Senior Night. (Emily McKithern)

“Porter games are always the toughest,” Hennings said. “It feels like they really try harder against us than they do against most teams. It’s a big rivalry game. I think we’re the more talented team but sometimes, you know, with how rivalries get, anything can happen, anywhere, any day.”

Strong pitching has been a defining feature of the team’s success so far. Pitchers Andrew Hennings, Kainoa Blas, R.J Prazak, Aden Murray, Gabriel Bernal, Cole Webb, Blake Ward, Tanner Gillean, and Cody Jenkins have combined to hold opponents to an average of 2.6 runs per game, while the offense averages 7.5 runs per game runs per game.

“[The pitching has] been huge for us,” Ford said. “That takes some pressure off of our hitters. So I tell our pitchers their job is to not win the game, but just give everybody else an opportunity to make plays and win.”

Promising underclassman pitchers, including sophomores Landon Coburn and Tyler Brown have combined with the many more experienced pitchers to form a strong, deep rotation that provides rest and variation.

“Our pitching is really strong this year,” Hennings said. “We’ve had a really deep pitching staff with a lot of guys that can fill the strike zone and have good offspeed stuff.”

The strong senior class provides vital leadership, with eleven seniors making the roster. Among them are captains Hennings, Jenkins, Webb, Nolan Krueger and Michael Santiago.

“It’s important for [the seniors] to show leadership to the younger guys,” Ford said.

“And they have a lot of pride in what they do. I think our seniors have done a good job of setting that expectation for not only the other varsity players, the juniors and sophomores, but the program as a whole.”

The players and coaches share a goal of returning to playoffs for a second-consecutive year and making a run they know they are capable of.

“Me personally, I just want to keep giving my team chances to win the game,” Hennings said.

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