The Tyler Junior College baseball team has played 49 games.
But today the Apaches’ slate is wiped clean.
It is a new season as the playoffs begin with the Metro Athletic Conference Play-In Series scheduled for Mike Carter Field.
TJC (31-18) meets the Brookhaven College Bears (21-28) in a best-of-three series. Game 1 is at 6 p.m. tonight with Game 2 slated for 1 p.m. Saturday. If a third game is needed, it will be played following the conclusion of the second game.
The teams are playing for the right to advance to the District C Tournament, which is scheduled for May 11-13, also at Mike Carter Field. MAC teams Eastfield (35-18) and Richland (30-24) have already clinched spots in the tourney. North Arkansas (37-11) and North Lake (26-21) will meet in another play-in series this weekend in Harrison, Ark., for another slot.
The winner of the District C Tournament advances to the NJCAA Division III World Series, which is scheduled for May 19-25, also at Mike Carter. The Apaches won the national title in 2007 and were runners-up in 2010.
The two teams split during the regular season — the Bears winning 6-5 on Feb. 10 in Farmers Branch and the Apaches winning 10-0 on April 18 in Tyler.
TJC coach Doug Wren said his Apaches are ready for the playoffs.
“From here on out we are here at Mike Carter until someone kicks us out,” Wren said. “We want to take care of business; and focus on this weekend.”
A possible starter for the Apaches on the mound for Game 1 is Cody Ellerbee, a sophomore from Georgetown. Ellerbee is 5-2 on the season with an ERA of 2.13. In 67 2-3 innings, he has struck out 56 and walked 20.
Payton Smith, a sophomore from Whitehouse, could get the call for Game 2. Smith is 6-3 with a 2.66 ERA. He has pitched 47 1-3 innings with 42 strikeouts and 17 walks.
The Apaches have six batters hitting over .300, led by Taylor Drolette, a sophomore outfielder from Hutto who is averaging .354.
Other TJC players above .300 include: Jon McManemin, sophomore from Carrollton (.335), Conner Lewis, sophomore from Rockwall, (.333), Nico Moran, sophomore from Longview (.311), Hunter Sutton, freshman from Forney (.307) and Tyler Ernest, sophomore from Jasper (.305).
AJ Helms (6-5, 4.10 ERA) leads the Bears on the mound, while Mac James leads in hitting at .384.
SMOKE SIGNALS: Mike Carter Field is located 1900 W. Houston St., on the East Texas Fairgrounds, adjacent to Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium, the Tyler Rose Garden and Harvey Convention Center. … Tickets are $3 for adults and students are admitted free with an ID.