Appropriately, so has the team.
Returning just two seniors and a single junior from last year’s squad, Jarad Richards—now in his fifth year—will have to reach down deep in the underclassmen to find players who are varsity ready.
“This year’s team will have a lot of new faces on varsity,” he said. ‘“We are still in the process of evaluating the guys to determine who will make the final varsity roster. “In the mean time we will be depending a lot on the few returners we do have.”
Which would be seniors Dillan Schnerr and Cody Burrough and junior third baseman Duke Schneider.
The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Schnerr ended the season with a .382 batting average, despite falling off towards the end of district play.
The Tigers need their power source to stay plugged in.
“Dillan is going to have to tote the load offensively,” Richards said. “He has the potential to be unstoppable at the plate if he’ll stay focused and not let his own confidence get the best of him like last year. He has so much potential offensively.
“Hopefully someone will step up and be able to protect him in the line-up.”
Other young talent that is still being evaluated to determine if they will be on varsity are juniors Zach Garza, Tate Pounders, Cody Skubal and Ty Kirk; sophomore Ethan Brinkley; and freshmen Austin Caffey and Clayton Gibbs.
Caffey is likely to be the starting catcher for the Tigers, replacing first-team all-district selection Joe Sanders.
Richards may have turned in his greatest coaching job last season, cutting and pasting an infield together and missing the playoffs by one run—a 1-0 loss to Cameron in the last game of the regular season.
Richards has led the Tigers to three consecutive winning seasons for the first time since the 1998-2000 seasons under Larry Pipkin, the school’s winningest coach.
With 55 wins, Richards is already the school’s third winnigest coach.
Richards is betting that the new surroundings will inspire his young squad. “The new facilities are awesome and bring a sense of pride and responsibility to our team to take care of our facilities,” he said. “ We hope to show our appreciation by putting a team on the field that can represent Rockdale well, not necessarily through wins and losses, but through how we play the game.”
As far as district is concerned, gone are Taylor and Cameron who have been the bane of the Tigers’ existence the past two years.
However, stepping in to take their place are newcomers Giddings and LaGrange.
Giddings (32-3 in 2010) is led by University of Texas signee Brooks Marlowe and lost in the state championship game last season to Pleasant Grove.
LaGrange was 25-7 and lost in the regional quarterfinals.
Caldwell is the only team in the district that had a losing ledger last season.
“I still expect us to surprise a lot of people in district,” Richards says. “Most people have us picked to finish around the bottom of our district. Most have Giddings, La Grange, Caldwell, and Navasota tabbed as the top four fighting for the top three spots.
“I hope these guys can sneak up on some of these teams and find ourselves in the mix come late April.”
It may be April before he can solidify a linup card.
“I’m confident we’ll find a quality team out of this group of guys that will compete hard. These are all great young men that I love coaching and being around. Coaching a quality group of young men like this will make the year fun regardless of the end results of games.”
Rockdale will be hosting half of the 4th annual Bell Rivals Classic along with Cameron in a pool play format.
Ten teams will participate in the dual town tournament, including Lucas Lovejoy, Lufkin Hudson, Taylor, Giddings and Robinson, which has captured the three previous Classic crowns and is ranked No. 2 in the state in pre-season.
Lucas Lovejoy is ranked No. 4 and Lufkin Hudson No. 18.
Rockdale opens with Taylor Thursday at 3 p.m. and then faces Lucas Lovejoy at 7 p.m., both at Tiger Field.
Unfortunately, the Tigers’ inexperience was showing on opening night as Cameron pitcher Thomas Rinn tossed a no-hitter at Rockdale in a 10-0 run-rule loss.
Rinn, who totaled just 71 pitches all night, was two walks from recording a perfect game and fanned six Tigers along the way, five through the first three innings.
Rinn helped his own cause with a pair of hits and an RBI double.
Justin Pratt had a hit and two runs batted in, while John Rinn and Dylan Riola also banged out two hits each.
Brinkley absorbed the loss, allowing five hits and five runs in four innings of work.
Already out front 5-0, the Yoemen tacked on five more runs in the top of the fifth for the double-digit bulge.
Coach—Jarad Richards (5th year,
2010 district— 6- 6 (4th)
Key losses— P- OF Greg Chelf, C Joe
Sanders, P Justin Elliott, DH J.B.
Debault, OF-P Brandon Gibbs.
Key returnees—Sr. 1B Dillan
Schnerr (.382), Sr. OF Casey Burrough (.167), Jr. 3B Duke Schneider
Key newcomers—Zach Garza,
Stephen Ehler, Tate Pounders, Cody
Skubal, Waylon Rogers, Ty Kirk,
Ethan Brinkley, Austin Caffey, Clayton Gibbs.
|Feb||22||Cameron||4: 30/6: 30|
|Feb||24-||26 Bell Rivals||Tournament TBA|
|Mar||10-||12 Brownwood||Tournament TBA|
|Mar||17||@ San||Marcos||4 p.m.|
|Mar||18||@ Llano||6 p.m.|
|Mar||19||Liberty Hill||1 p.m.|
|*||denotes District||23-||3A game|