Pivotal for the Tigers this season: Finding the No. 2 and 3 pitchers in the rotation, not awarding teams extra outs and coming up clutch with runners in scoring position. Travis, which returns six starters from last year’s 22-14 area finalist, has a talented core in ace and Texas-signee Trey Faltine (.324 average, 19 RBIs, 2.43 ERA), Howardcommit Kevin Ortiz (.400, 20 RBIs) and Koby Dutka (.304). The Tigers are seeking their ninth consecutive trip to the playoffs.
The Bulldogs are loaded with experience, returning 10 starters from an 18-14 club that lost in the bi-district round of the playoffs. Summer Creek returns all its starting pitching and will be led by senior pitcher/3B Andre Duplantier II, a University of Texassignee, and OF Tyler Via. Senior OF Timothy Mansell, senior LHP/1B Matt Young, senior Dylan Smith and RHP/IF Danny Garza also will have a hand in the Bulldogs’ success this season.
Coach Bo Hernandez’s team is in good shape for 2019, returning eight starters from a bidistrict finalist that finished 18-12 last year. The Panthers’ core will be a senior-laden group led by catcher Dalton Stevenson, P/IF Tyler Thompson, OF Bryson Kemp, CF/IF Kyle Bearden, pitcher Devon Patel, 1B/P Dalton Eggleston and 3B/C AJ Wilson. Junior OF/P Hunter Smith will also figure into the team’s success.
The Deer return four starters from a team that finished 2018 as area finalists with a 25-9 record. Senior OF/C Jordan Phillips (.346 average), senior C Tyler Weis (.300), senior 1B/ DH Alex Olivo (.486) and senior LHP Matthew Potts (3-0) will lead the way. Chris Rupp enters his eighth year as head coach. Deer Park is two years removed from its Class 6A state championship and has the hitting to be a threat again this season.
The Bulldogs are reloading – after losing Jordan Groshans and Adam Kloffenstein to the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2018 MLB Draft – and return just two starters from a 27-8 regional quarterfinalist last season. Those two starters are catcher and Texas Tech-commit Bo Willis and 6-foot-2 pitcher Joey Raker, who is signed to Grayson Community College. Other key players will be Cole Ketzner, Collin Young, Brady Loving, Mitch Hall, Austin Holland and Kaleb Clines. Pitching will be the Bulldogs’ key this season, coach Taylor Shiflett said.