Is five times the charm?
Paschal’s varsity baseball team is practicing for its fifth straight year of District 1, Region 4 playoffs. The team beat Arlington Martin High School on Friday, April 29 to place third overall in the district.
“The kids say they don’t want to be the class to end it,” head coach Stephen Smith said. “It’s the first time in 60 years that we’ve made playoffs five times in a row.”
The team finished its regular season and is now onto postseason practice, which includes a team staple – Mohawk haircuts.
“It’s based off a tradition that started in ‘08,” Smith said of the 100 percent-Mohawked varsity team. “They take a lot of pride in it. It’s a prerequisite. If you’re on varsity and you make the playoffs, you get a Mohawk.”
Junior Ben Bradley, a catcher for the Panthers, said the traditions keep the team motivated. Bradley said if the Panthers had won their district (they finished third), they would have dyed their Mohawks purple.
“If you get in the playoffs, you get to do something crazy,” Bradley said. “We decided to do Mohawks again this year and mustaches. Coach calls them caterpillars.”
Bradley plays with 14 seniors on the varsity team this year. In the past four years, the team has had four All-Americans and five All-Staters.
Senior Jamie Bittle will be playing in his third and last playoffs. Bittle plans to pitch at Trinity University in the fall.
“I’m going to miss being around the guys,” Bittle said. “Every day we have baseball to look forward to.”
Senior outfielder and relief pitcher Morgan Hix will join Bittle at Trinity. Hix, who will play Trinity football alongside his older brother, said Paschal has a unique athletic arrangement.
“It’s hard to find athletes at Paschal since it’s more of an academic school,” Hix said. “Our team is a product of hard work. “
Hix also shared another popular Paschal tradition — nicknames.
“Everybody just earns a nickname somehow,” Hix said. “I’m Rolando, after a class I’m in and a voice I do. It keeps everybody close.”
Senior David “Squid” Camilleri, a pitcher and outfielder, earned his nickname based on his last name.
“My nickname is Squid because my last name sounds like calamari,” Camilleri said. “We keep it fun out here with the guys.”
The team knows it’s not all fun and games all the time. Senior William Lanier, a shortstop, expects a harder year at playoffs. This will be Lanier’s third year on Paschal’s varsity team.
“We have to have more chemistry,” Lanier said. “Since we don’t have the power pitching we used to have, our hitting is crucial. If we do our work with the offense, we’ll be good.”
Despite losing key pitchers like Hoby Milner, the current No. 2 pitcher at the University of Texas in Austin, the team still boasts a winning record.
If Coach Smith has his way, graduates won’t disappear forever.
“We have an alumni game and 31-year-olds will still come in and call me coach,” Smith said. “That means a lot to me. If they could leave here with a diploma and get a degree and take care of a family, then I’ve done my job as a coach.”
Playoffs schedule as of May 2
Game 1: Paschal vs. Midland High at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 6, at Texas Christian University.
Game 2: Paschal vs. Midland High at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 7, at Arlington Heights High School.
Game 3: Paschal vs. Midland High, if necessary will be thirty minutes after the second game at Arlington Heights High School.