Houston sent three teams to the UIL State Baseball Tournament last season in The Woodlands, Cypress Ranch and Kingwood Park.
Unfortunately, those three did not bring home any hardware.
It’s a new year and the rich continue to get richer. Some of those same teams are back in the mix, this time with more experience and hunger to close the deal. It’s time to meet the contenders!
Cypress Ranch was one of the three baseball teams to reach Dell Diamond last season. Expect the Mustangs to be back in the conversation in regards to making a return trip in 2019. The biggest key for Cypress Ranch is their pitching staff, which includes Matt Thompson (Texas A&M), JJ Goss (Texas A&M) and Jake Hymel (San Jacinto). Thompson (5-1, 2.38 ERA) and Goss (10-2, 1.45 ERA) are amongst the top pitching prospects in the nation and could see their names called in the 2019 MLB Draft in June. Goss recorded six complete games, three shutouts and struck-out 93 in 77 innings. Also returning is Jared Alvarez-Lopez (.357 avg. 34 RBIs, 16 doubles) and Jake Combs. The Mustangs will have to replace some other key pieces at the plate, so expect Fabian Mayfield (.389 avg, 12 RBIs) and Luke Negrete (.286 avg, 12 RBIs) to potentially step up to help. The Mustangs have the aces to carry the squad early, while the lineup comes together.
The Woodlands is loaded. After reaching the state semis, one of the state’s most decorated coaches in Ron Eastman returns with a loaded dugout. The Highlanders fell to eventual state champ Southlake Carroll after a 25-14-1 season, in which they started off slow. Back on the mound will be ace and Texas-signee Will Swope. Behind the plate is LSU-commit Drew Romo, who was a member of the USA Baseball18U National Team this past fall in Panama. They will be the meat of the lineup along with Highlander all-time season hits leader Casey Sunseri (Texas State) and PJ Villareal (Wharton CC). UH commits Cam Caley and Luke Hammond provide postseason experience, while Matthew Bulovas will provide pitching relief. Daunte Stewart, Harrison Caley, Evan Kelly and Dylan McDowell will move into more prominent roles. Cody Howard could be a big addition late in the season as the Baylor-commit could move onto the pitching staff.
Kingwood reached the Regional Quarterfinals last season after going 28-7-2. They return some key pieces to the diamond this season. The ace of the staff will be junior Masyn Winn (Arkansas), who is working his way back from an offseason injury. Winn, the reigning District MVP, has been selected for USA Baseball teams in the past and expect him to be the anchor of the Mustangs’ staff. Other key returners include first-team, all-district selections Tre Richardson (University of Houston), Carter Amarantos and Luke Johnson. Also back is Sam Friday, Trey Dees, Nick Luckett, Grant Evans and Ryan Michie. Keys to success for Kelly Mead’s crew in 2019 include “taking care of the little things, controlling what we can control and to instill a sense of Character, Integrity, Loyalty and Responsibility as a student-athlete, teammate and community member.”
With their matching bleached blonde hair, Cy-Fair reached the Region III-6A Finals last season. It ended up being an all-Cy-Fair ISD affair as the Bobcats ran into then-district mate Cypress Ranch. The Mustangs won that series in a decisive third game, ending Cy-Fair’s season at 32-11. With the splitting of the Cy-Fair ISD programs into separate districts and more importantly separate regions, Cy-Fair has a chance to make a run at the Region III-6A crown this season with some big-time talent coming back. Ole Miss-commit Peyton Chatagnier returns after being named the District 17-6A MVP last year. Chatagnier batted .402 with 27 RBIs and had 33 stolen bases on top of that. Also coming back is Jacob Schoenvogel (Baylor), who was a first-team, all-district selection, hit .327 with 19 RBIs and 16 stolen bases. Another first-team, all-district selection returning is Justin Flores (.333 avg, 16 RBIs). Some other Bobcats to keep an eye on in 2019 include Kyle Reece (Bossier Parish CC), Rhett McCaffety, Tyler McClosky, Brandon Ellisor, Ethan Clark and Jake Dunagan. Second-year coach Billy Hardin (32-11) knows “they have to have some guys step up at pitching to replace two starters from last year. If we can get quality pitching, then I believe we have a chance to be good.”
Atascocita is not far removed from playing in a Regional Finals. In 2016, the Eagles reached the round just before the state semifinals and look to get back there in 2019. Last season, the Eagles were on the verge of getting back but ran into Cypress Ranch, whom they pushed to the final game of a three-game series in the Region III-6A Semifinals. Coming off that kind of season, the Eagles do return some key pieces to make another run coming out of a tough District 22-6A. Caleb Cannon (Sam Houston State), Clay Bradford (Temple JC), Tyler Byrd (Texas A&M-Corpus Christi), Macrae Kendrick (Angelina JC) and Matthew Linskey (Rice) will be the core pieces to the Atascocita roster. To reach their ultimate goal, Atascocita coach Eric Matthews (273-131-5 – 13th season) says this year is about “team first” and “the work you put in on a daily basis needs to match your goals. Also there is no easy way to be good”. Atascocita will be right in the thick of things again in 2019.
For the first time in program history, Kingwood Park reached the UIL State Tournament. The Panthers fell short in the state semifinal game in extra innings to finish the season 32-13 overall. A program that has reached the postseason in 10-straight seasons, returns eight starters to the field in 2019. First-team, all-district selections shortstop Matthew Burke (Flagler University), pitcher Jackson Rodriguez and catcher Clay Sowell are back for the Panthers after nice campaigns. Burke hit .352 for the season, Sowell hit for .324, while Rodriguez posted a 10-3 record on the mound. Also returning is second-team, all-district selection Matt King (.283 avg) and honorable-mention, all-district selection Brandon Madden. Other key returners for Kingwood Park include right fielder Tommy Ivey, first baseman Parker Roberts, second baseman AJ Gonzalez and pitcher Kane Gideon. The biggest key to success for Kingwood Park this season seventh-year coach Bruce Cox says is actually forgetting about last year and focusing on this season. “Pitching should be deeper, but they have to prove it,” Cox (144-76 record at Kingwood Park) said. “Depth of hitters and position players is at a programhigh, but they have to make the most of their opportunities.” If Kingwood Park does all that, the Panthers may find themselves right back at Dell Diamond in early June.
Tomball has been a consistent contender in the city for the past few years. In 2013, the Cougars climbed the mountain and won the Class 4A State Championship. After reaching the Regional Quarterfinals with a 24-11-1 mark, does Tomball have the pieces to make that kind of run again in 2019? Tomball heads into this season playing in an ultra-competitive new District 20-5A, which includes state semifinalist Kingwood Park and other powers like Montgomery (moving down from 6A) and Porter. Tomball coach Doug Rush has 451 career wins heading into this year and will lean on returning first-team, all-district selections Eric Oakes (Texas State) and Kasen Handal. Also coming back are Eli Kerim (Texas Tech) and Cody Ryan, who will play key roles on the squad. Expect Tomball to claim a playoff berth and once in the postseason, a run by Rush’s crew can always be counted on.
Memorial has the pieces to contend for the District 17-6A title as the Mustangs shift into a new-look district. The Mustangs are coming off a 20-13-1 season, reaching the Area Round and bring back some solid pieces that could result in a nice playoff run. Start at the top as reigning District Newcomer of the Year Tom Vincent (Texas A&M) is back on the mound for the Mustangs. Also back is first-team, all-district selection Ben Dukes (Rice), and second-team, all-district picks Jackson Appel (University of Pennsylvania), Jack Riedel (University of North Carolina) and Mason Flinn. Another arm for the Mustangs to watch on the mound this season is Jared Plank, who recently verbally committed to Rice. There is Division I talent scattered all across the roster, now it’s time to see if Memorial can piece it together for a deep playoff run and try to get past the second round for the first time since 2015