With four of the five southern Denton County high school baseball teams making the post season in 2011, the region has once again proven that it produces some of the best baseball talent in the state.
As the 2012 season gets set to kick off, hopes are high for the fans of Argyle, Liberty Christian, Flower Mound, Marcus and Guyer, as all five teams have proven to be a force in the realm of playoff baseball.
Argyle had a tremendous season in 2011, reaching the regional finals at the 3A level.
Coach Ricky Griffin said he expects his Eagles to be among the top 3A programs in the state once again and said this year’s team could be even better than last year’s program.
“I am really looking forward to this season,” Griffin said. “We have the most talent this year of any of my previous years here. Pitching should be strong, and we have looked really good so far defensively.”
Griffin said he expects Austin Aune, Jay Gonzales, Dillon Harp, Drew Gooch, Seth Jones, and move-ins Landon Rogers and Matt Farris to lead the way for the Eagles this season.
The Argyle coach said he anticipates Sanger and Aubrey to give Argyle the most trouble in district, and said Whitesboro could be a dark horse.
To have a successful season, Griffin said it will take a couple of things.
“Players have to play to their ability, and we have to have good senior leadership,” Griffin said.
Down the road at Liberty Christian, coach Johnny Isom has his team is itching for another shot at a state title, as the Warriors advanced to the state semi-finals before losing to Houston St. Thomas 4-3 last year.
Houston St. Thomas is coached by former Houston Astros great, Craig Biggio.
Isom said his team will have its work cut out for it, however, as it lost a lot of fire power from last season.
“It is a season of new beginnings for us this year,” Isom said. “We graduated nine seniors last year. So we are in the process of trying to replace about 65 percent of our offensive production, and about 82 percent of our pitching production.
“We relied heavily on our seniors last year, and it has left the remaining team with a pretty daunting task.”
Isom said he expects a corps of players to have strong seasons this year, including the following who posted great numbers last season:
Senior – OF/2B – Kyle Metzger – .347 AVG., 5 2B, 31 TB, 11 SB. Senior – SS/P – Denton Martin – .339 AVG., 45 R, 5 3B, 61 TB Senior – C – Michael Speanburg – .308 AVG., 33 H, 27 RBI, 45 TB Junior – MIF – Foster Ford – .325 AVG., 27 H, 8 2B, 37 TB
Isom said he expects defending state champions Bishop Lynch and Trinity Christian to be the teams to beat in district this year.
“Like everyone will probably say, you have to throw strikes and play defense,” Isom said. “We are young and inexperienced on the mound, and we will spend pre-district really trying to see who will be our consistent strike throwers.
“If we can get a few consistent strike throwers, I think we will have a defense strong enough behind them to make plays. Our success or lack of success will always start on the mound.”
For Flower Mound coach Martin Amrine, a 25-10 record and bi-district appearance was a good season in 2011, but the Jaguars want more in 2012.
“The 2012 Flower Mound Jaguars are shaping up to be a talented team,” Amrine said. “We have a strong pitching staff and very good defensive team. I believe that we will be competing for an 8-5A district championship.
“Our team is senior heavy, and we will have strong leadership this year, which should help us to stay focused and keep working hard to meet our goals.”
Amrine said he expects strong seasons from a number of players this year, including Cody Gunter 3B/P, Andrew Vinson SS/P, Jack Moffit P, Kyle St. Pierre 1B, Tyler Pollok C, John Kresta P/C, Scott Popescu 2B, Anthony Soriano OF, Seth Jordan P, and Michael Wymer P.
Amrine said he does not see any clear cut favorites in district 8-5A this season, saying he expects every game to be a dog fight, and said to make another post season run, he will need a few things from his team.
“We will have to stay healthy first and foremost,” Amrine said. “We have a great pitching staff, so we will have to pitch well and play great defense. If we do those two things, then I belief we will have a chance to win the district and succeed in the playoffs.”
Across town at Marcus, Marauders coach Dustin Sykora said a series of close district losses that prevented his team from making the post season in 2011 have fueled the fire to make a playoff run in 2012.
“Our tremendous senior leadership allowed for us to have another great off-season,” Sykora said. “Our Performance Course training was vital to the development of our players physically and mentally. Our pitching depth is the deepest it has been since I arrived three years ago, and we will rely heavily on our arms to win ball games.
“With the new BBCOR (Batted Ball Coefficient of Resolution) bat standard, teams that pound the zone early and often and play solid defense behind their pitchers will be successful. Our defensive philosophy is simple: before you can win any game, you must not lose it.”
Sykora said some of his key returners this year include Sr./LHP – Colin Poche (University of Arkansas commit), Sr./RHP – Brandon Courville (Midland Junior College commit), Sr./CF – Cameron McMahen (2011 – 2nd Team All-District), and Weston Pitts (Sr./C, .400, 26 Rbi).
After finishing 19-14 last year and still missing the playoffs, Sykora agreed with Amrine that there is no clear cut favorite in district 8-5A, and said for Marcus to claim one of the top four spots in district season, he is going to need two things.
“Pitching and defense are the most important phases of baseball,” Sykora said. “Throwing strikes and playing catch must be done on a routine basis. All offenses go through their ups and downs, but pitching and defense must be your mainstays if you want to have a playoff season.”
Up at Guyer High School, coach Johnny Kinzy has his Wildcats playing well, and after a third place finish in district 7-5A last season, his guys are hungry for more.
“We had a great off-season in the fall and the practices, and scrimmages have been very positive,” Kinzy said. “We have seven defensive starters back this year.”
Those players include Isaack Lopez – catcher, Sr., Jud Kinzy – 2B-SS, Jr., Lance Cullum – SS, Sr., Chris Monroe – 3B-2B, Jr., Cole Fiola – LF, Sr. – Last season 1st team OF, Cole Wessling – CF, Jr., and Will Matthews – RF from 1B, Sr.
Guyer finished 9-5 in district competition last season, and Kinzy said for his team to have another strong year it will take good fundamentals.
“We’ll have to have pitchers throwing low strikes, the defense making the routine plays and timely hitting,” Kinzy said.