HARD BALL AREA: UNDER CONSTRUCTION
see a team photo of the 2010 Rockdale Tigers baseball team.
The Tigers are coming off a season in which they set a school record for victories (22) and re-entered the playoffs after a 10-year absence.
That, of course, is the good news.
The bad news is they lost six starters that packed up and took with them 11 home runs, 161 runs, 149 runs batted in, and arms that accounted for 16 of the 22 wins in 2009.
“People better not count us out just because we graduated a lot last year,” warns Coach Jarad Richards. “I expect that, but I think this senior group has something they want to prove. We lost a lot of great ball players, but then again this group of seniors has been pretty succussful as well (36 wins in the past two seasons).
Surprisingly, Richards believes his pitching staff will be the team’s strong suit, which was the case last season.
Justin Elliott will lead that group along with Greg Chelf, Brandon Gibbs and newcomer Duke Schneider will get a chance to throw in early tournament play.
Elliott (3-1, 4.11 ERA) looked brilliant in shutting down Taylor on a complete game, four-hitter in the first game of the quarterfi nal series last year and the senior righthander will be the bell cow of the hill.
Gibbs and Chelf were a combined 2-0 last season in 13 appearances.
With so many positions to fill and so little experience to fill them with, it may be a while before this team settles in and discovers its personalty.
Richards is going to have to rebuild his entire infield, which means replacing three all-state performers in catcher Nic Hammett (94 career RBI), third baseman Mark Drake (.400, 44 runs) and first-team all-state first base selection Chance Betchan, who socked in 48 runs batted in last season.
Joe Sanders, who started in the outfield and subbed for Hammett when he was on the mound, will start at catcher.
Richards is expecting a breakout year for the senior Sanders who played in just 13 games after healing up from a wrist injury he suffered during football.
Chelf and Gibbs had only 48 combined at bats in 2009.
The Tigers top returning hitter is junior right fielder Dillan Schnerr, who batted .362, while cracking four home runs and socking in 31 RBI, which was second-best on the team.
The 6-foot-4, 250-pound masher was a first-team all-district choice.
Senior designated hitter J.B. Debault was also a steady hand (.345, 22 RBI) and should move out onto the field at second base in 2010.
“Overall, we’ll keep our focus on the same thing we did last year, which is to play in May. We don’t care if we go in as one, two, or three, so long as we’re in.
“I think five of the district teams are pretty even and any of them could beat any other team anytime. I doubt very much we’ll see an undefeated district champ. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the district champ has two losses.
“We aren’t picked in the top three in most polls, but if our hitting comes on like I think it will, we’ll surprise some people.”
With seven starters returning, Cam- eron is picked as District 24-3A favorite. Defending champion Taylor (five returning starters, Eric Brooks not one of them) is next followed by Navasota (district offensive MVP Kye Hildreth)... Orangefield is rated as the best region III team while neighbor and future district mate Giddings is No. 1 in the state according to 3Abaseball.
Coach—Jarad Richards (4th year,
2009 district—8-4 (3rd)
Playoffs—Def. Huffman-Hargrave in
area; lost to Taylor in quarterfinals.
Key losses—1B Chance Betchan
(1st team all-state, 48 RBI); C/P
Nic Hammett (all-state, 94 career
RBI); P/3B/OF Mark Drake (allstate,
.400, 7-1); P/3B Billy Gonzalez;
SS Randy Korenek; 2B Chris
Yanes (1st team all-district).
Key returnees—Jr. OF Dillan
Schnerr (1st team all-district, .362,
4 HR, 31 RBI); Sr. C Joe Sanders,
(.256); Sr. 2B J.B. Debault (.345);
Sr. OF Brandon Gibbs (.222); Sr.
P/IF Justin Elliott (3-1); Sr. OF/P
Key newcomers—So. Duke
Schneider; Jr. Casey Burrough; Jr.
|22 Greg Chelf||Sr.||OF|
|44 Dillan Schnerr||Jr.||OF|
|Feb 25-27||Bells Rival Classic||TBA|
|Mar 4-6||Fairfield Tournament||TBA|
|Mar 12||Bryan Rudder*||5/7|
|Mar 16||@ Navasota*||2/4|
|Mar 27||@ Taylor*||5/7|
|Mar 30||@ Cameron*||5/7|
|Apr 6||@ Bryan Rudder*||5/7|
|Apr 13||@ Caldwell*||5/7|
|* denotes District 24-3A game|
|* District Champions|