High school teams ready to step up to plate

As Old Man Winter slowly relinquishes his iron grip and warmer weather peeks out from the shadows, the boys of summer are gearing up for what promises to be another exciting year on the diamond in southern Denton County.

It was a banner year for area teams in 2013, as five of our programs made the playoffs, including a state championship for Liberty Christian.

As the 2014 season gets underway, coaches are optimistic about what the season has in store.

“We’re coming off the huge year last year, winning our third baseball state championship in school history,” Liberty coach Johnny Isom said.  “We are facing the daunting task of defending a state title. We graduated 13 last year and will have a lot of new faces in the mix, but the boys are working to fill the holes left by our talented senior class of 2013. The boys will be ready to compete in 2014.”

The Warrior Baseball team will be led by seniors Connor McMann (West Virginia), Jordan Parker (Hutchingson Community College) and Benn Hawkins (Airforce Academy) this season.

Liberty finished 27-9 overall last season, with a 10-2 mark in the Tapps district 1-5A standings. The Warriors were also district, area, regional and state champions in 2013 as well.

Isom said the most important component to a successful season for his team is to keep its priorities straight.

“Our objectives for this season and every season are to represent Christ on the baseball field and lead others to Christ in the way that we conduct ourselves and play,” Isom said. “If we do that than the rest will take care of itself.”

Up the road at Argyle High School, the Eagles had another great year in 2013, winning a district championship and finishing the season with a 29-5 overall record.

“This should be a strong team,” coach Ricky Griffin said.

The Eagles will be led by Drew Gooch (TCU), Conner Mushinski (Texas Tech), Ryley Bach, Brandon Boyzuick, Tyler Gibson, and Cutter McDonald this season.

Griffin said he anticipates Celina and Frisco Lone Star as being Argyle’s two strongest opponents.

Continuing north, the Guyer baseball team is coming off of a second place finish in district and trip to the bi-district round, and coach Johnny Kinzy said things are shaping up well for this season, too.

“This season is going very well except for the weather,” Kinzy said. “Players are working hard and excited about the season.”

The Wildcats will be led Kyle Cantu, Daulton Horton, Brandon Hendricks, Tristan Brown, Luke Cullum, Riley Wilhoit, and Zak Koehler.

Kinzy said the three objectives for this season are to make the postseason, have a good playoff run and advance to the state tournament, and in order to do that, the Guyer coach said his team will need to “pitch well, play good defense and have timely hits.”

Over in Flower Mound, the Marcus baseball team is coming off of a phenomenal 2013, finishing 32-8 for the season and reaching the regional semi-finals.

Coach Jeff Sherman said there is a lot of youth on this year’s team, but said he believes the Marauders should be in for another strong season.

“We had a career last year, and we are losing a lot of key players,” Sherman said. “But we do have some starting pitching back, which is always a good thing. We are going to be young as far as varsity experience in our lineup.”

The Marauders return four starters, and Sherman anticipates Conner Dotson (West Virginia), Matt Bernstein (.390, 27 RBI), Brendan Venter and Jack Cushing to lead the way this season.

“Our core value is that we want to compete in every game and play as hard as we can,” Sherman said. “We want to try to create that magic we had last year.”

For the Flower Mound Jaguars, 2013 was a banner year as well, as FMHS finished the season with a 31-5 mark and a perfect 15-0 in district.

Coach Danny Wallace said that he is optimistic that 2014 will be another great year where the Jaguars will get a chance at a bit of redemption, after losing in the opening round of the playoffs last year.

“We are excited about the season,” Wallace said. “We’ve had a great offseason and the boys are ready to compete this year.”

The Jaguars will be led by Connor Wanhanen, Tim Millard, Noah Hill, Mitch Andrews, Casey Jacobsen, BJ Myers, Seth Jordan, Kyle Johnston, and Sean Wymer.

“Marcus and Coppell will be very tough to beat in district play, but everyone in our district can beat anyone they play,” Wallace said. “If we stay healthy and pitch like we are capable of we could have a great season.”

For Coram Deo Academy, the Lions just missed the postseason after finishing 5-5 last season, and coach Rodney Ashby said he believes his team is ready for a breakthrough.

“We are looking forward to a great season,” Ashby said. “The players are excited and working hard every day.  Experience is your greatest teacher.  We had nine freshman on varsity last year, so those guys received plenty of experience at the varsity level for us.  We are hoping that experience will carry over into the season.  So far, it is looking that way.  We want to keep developing this sophomore class, because they will carry our team this year.”

Ashby said he expects Andrew and Ben Kuykendall, Caleb Hobbs, Justin Henderson, and Gray Prewitt to lead the way for the Lions this season.

Ashby said the goals for this season are to use the non-district to prepare, and then finish in the top two in district in order to make the playoffs.

To have a successful season, Ashby said it will take three things. 

“I preach to my team, pitching, defense, and timely hitting wins ball games,” Ashby said. “If we can focus on those three tasks, then we can have a very successful season.  This team has the make up to do it.  We will have to compete and execute to get it done.”

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