As winter gives way to spring, the schools of southern Denton County are looking to once again make their marks in what is already a rich and storied legacy in the sport of baseball.
The region’s schools have combined for nine state championships and multiple state tournament appearances since the start of the millennium, and a few of them should contend to add to that total in 2023.
The Argyle baseball team was won three state championships in the last 10 years, and coach Ricky Griffin said he is optimistic about 2022-23.
“Things are shaping up good,” Griffin said. “We have lots of returners.”
Some of the stronger returners for the Eagles include JC Davis, Hunter Sandifer, Grady Emerson, Colton Roquemore, Micah Roberts, Connor Lillis, Park Prater, Alex D’Angelo, Hudson Emeterio and Reid Ross.
The Eagles finished 35-4 overall in 2022 with a perfect 10-0 mark in district competition.
After a disappointing loss in the state championship game last season, Griffin said the objective for 2023 is quite simple.
“We want to win another state championship,” Griffin said.
Argyle will be stepping up in competition this season, moving from 4A to 5A, but Griffin, an American Baseball Coaches Association National Coach of the Year in 2019, is not deterred by the move.
“We just need to take the next step and finish the job,” Griffin said.
Up the road at Liberty Christian, the Warriors are the owners of five state championships and could be in contention for a sixth this coming season.
Coach Billy Jordan said he is optimistic about his team’s chances heading into the season and particularly impressed with the overall depth of his program.
“Things are looking bright for Warrior baseball,” Jordan said. “The program is in a really good place as we have six teams from Middle School to High School. We are excited for this year’s group as we return five starters and added a couple key additions.”
Key returners for the Warriors include Brady Janusek, Baylis Earle, Walker DeBord and Alex Caddell.
Liberty finished 14-19 overall with a very difficult non-district schedule in 2022, and went 8-4 in district, finishing in first place and receiving a first-round bye.
The Warriors lost in the regional round of the playoffs.
“This season, we are focusing on taking a group of younger guys with a little experience and building upon the success of last season,” Jordan said. “We felt like reaching the playoffs last season we did not prepare our guys well, as most of them had never played in a playoff game before.”
Jordan said he thinks the district championship will come down to Liberty Christian and Southwest Christian, and said to have a good run in the playoffs this season, it will take a couple of things.
“It’s going to take leadership from this senior group to help lead this team early in the season,” Jordan said. “This team is plenty talented, it’s just going to take time for them to come together as a team.”
Over at Flower Mound, the Jaguars wrapped up the 2022 season with a 22-12 overall record and 9-5 mark in district competition.
The Jaguars defeated Allen in the bi-district round last season before coming up a little short against South Grand Prairie at area.
Coach Danny Wallace said he is feeling pretty good about the way his team is competing early on.
“We have several returning starters,” Wallace said. “We were very young last season, but with seven starters back, we will be an experienced team this season.”
Players to watch for the Jaguars this season include Jacob Gholston, Zack James, Zane Becker, Sam Erickson, Evan Rolison, Brenden Kline, Josh Glaser and Adrian Rodriguez.
Wallace said he sees Hebron as the team to beat in district competition this season and said to have a strong season in 2023, it comes down to two basic objectives.
“We have to improve over last year and use the experience we gained as an asset,” Wallace said. “Our district is the toughest in the state, so just making the playoffs will be a big challenge.”
Across town at Marcus, with playoff victories over Guyer, Richardson Pierce and South Grand Prairie, the Marauders found themselves one series away from a state tournament appearance, but lost in three games to Keller.
Coach Jeff Sherman said that he is confident he has the team to make another good run in the postseason.
“We have a number of seniors that show up every day and compete and give their very best to Marcus High School,” Sherman said. “So we are feeling pretty good about how things are shaping up.”
Among the players who will lead the way for the Marauders this season are Griffin Lewis, Hank Harp, Caden Sorrell, Zach Kirpatrick, Preston Plank and Nick Mazzola, and Sherman said he will need them all and others to step up again in 2023.
“For us to have a long run, we just have to have that consistency on the mound,” Sherman said. “We have to create good at-bats and play good defense, and we have the guys who can do it. It’s just a matter of doing it consistently.”
Over in Justin, the Northwest baseball team wrapped up last season with a 16-13-1 overall record and finished third place in district competition.
The Texans defeated Wichita Falls Rider in the bi-district round before falling to eventual state semi-finalist Mansfield Legacy at area.
Northwest finished 9-5 in district competition last season and return a number of strong players this season, including Cole Barton, Kaleb Higgs and Trace Adams from last year’s team.
Up in Denton, the Guyer baseball team is also coming off of a playoff season, and coach Pat Watson said 2023 could be another good one for the Wildcats baseball program.
“Right now it has been a learning experience for the guys making the jump from JV to varsity,” Watson said. “Our pitching has been good, and that part of our team is where our strength is with two out of three top starters on the mound coming back with (Brad) Pruett and (Jack) Hickerson. We also have experience with (Cole) Loser, (Jack) Cagianello, (Hawk) Bowers and (Lane) Allen on the mound.
“Every one of those guys could be 1’s and 2’s on most teams. We are blessed this year with depth on the mound. Our biggest challenge has been developing depth at all positions in case someone were to get hurt.”
Other players to watch for the Wildcats include Caleb Cowan, Blade Carver and Seth Johnston.
Guyer finished third in district last season, going 18-13 overall and falling to Marcus in the opening round of the playoffs.
Watson said he believes that Prosper and Allen are the teams to be in district this season, and said to have another good season the focus will need to be on one side of the ball.
“Playing good defense,” Watson said. “I think we can score three or more a game, but we are going to have to play really good D.”