Wolverines hunting one seed in 1A Play-offsRhea Gonzales March 22, 2019 0 COMMENTS
By DEREK LOPEZ
The Springlake-Earth Wolverines’ varsity baseball team is entering its fourth year of being a program and third year under Head Coach DJ Atwood.
The Wolverines were 0-4 overall, 0-1 in district play, heading into their Tuesday match-up with Ralls. Results were not available at press time.
Coach Atwood will be assisted by Coach Brian Mahler and Israel DeLeon.
The Wolverines made it to the Regional Quarterfinals last year before being ousted by New Home.
This year, the success of the Wolverines’ basketball team took away their pre-district schedule, but Coach Atwood said he feels like once they get some practices in, that they will be alright.
“We played one pre-district game at Friona and we were putting up runs and keeping up with Friona for a while. I had an all freshman infield; they got the best of us in the end because we ran out of pitching,” he said. “When I had my number one, Jr Vargas on the mound, he was keeping up with Friona, I just had to pull him because of his pitch count.”
He added, “We didn’t do too well in our tournament; we played two games and Crosbyton ran out of pitching, so they didn’t want to play that third game. I also got a kid hurt in the tournament. We had one practice the Friday before Spring Break and then played our district-opener against Olton on that first Saturday of Spring Break. I pitched seven kids, 30 pitches a piece. With only having had one practice, there was going to be a lot of errors and things we haven’t talked about yet, but we’re slowly getting there. We’re getting a lot of ‘pins in, getting work; we’ve got the numbers, pitching wise, to do some stuff, but we just have to have some time.
The Coach said that he has three returning seniors, as well as a handful of juniors and sophomores to go along with a big freshman class.
“Good things have happened so far in practice. I’ve seen some young guys do a little bit better than I expected and some older guys pick right back up where they were last year and kind of surprised me after this long, being able to know what I’m talking about and just get in there and do it,” Coach Atwood said.
The returning seniors include: outfielder/pitcher, Rolando Arenas, outfielder/pitcher, Brandon Casares and third baseman, Kelsey Henson.
“Kelsey has been a project ever since I got here,” the coach explained. “He played a little bit of little league, but he has been slowly coming along and last year he hit a few triples and I think was ranked in triples at one point. In the end he came out really well, he has had some health issues early-on, but he is coming back and is doing well.”
He added, “I’ve only seen Rolando at one practice, because he is involved in so many things; One-Act Play, Track, he does everything. He’s been at one practice and has done well, but like everybody else he just needs time. Brandon, I think, is throwing harder than he has ever thrown on the mound, but he is still just a little bit wild. He just needs some time to dial it in, but we don’t have time, because it is district.”
The coach stated that his juniors are probably his strongest class that he relies on the most. They are: utility player, Jr Vargas; outfielder, Devin Jones; catcher/pitcher, Robert Mendoza and first baseman/pitcher Diego Sanchez.
“Jr Vargas is kind of a utility type guy; I’ve had him at catcher, shortstop, second base, third base; he had never done that before, but he figured it out. He has played in the outfield, he is that utility guy that I can stick anywhere,” he said. “Devin Jones has been a real good outfielder for me. He has been one of those who has been developing and has slowly come along. He started coming on last year as a sophomore, and I think he is going to be pretty good for us this year as a junior.”
He added, “Robert Mendoza solidifies the catcher position behind the plate. He is one of those kids who used to say I’m not a catcher, but now he’ll tell you that he is a catcher. He has worked hard and figured it out and has developed really well with all of the drills. Diego Sanchez plays first base for me and is a great first baseman. He just has that natural ability and natural instinct, when you do drills with him, he just picks it up immediately and adjust. He is also a great left-handed pitcher, he is going to help us out on the mound. He is doing a lot better this year, he is throwing harder this year and is more and more accurate.”
The sophomore class includes Darion Toscano and newcomer, Matt Martinez.
“In the sophomore class, we have a new kid, Matt Martinez, I’ve only seen him at one practice, but he has played at Floydada and Lockney and has some baseball background and baseball knowledge. He is one of those kids who is just excited for the game. He has impressed me in every other sport he has played, football, basketball, so I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do in baseball,” the coach explained.
“Darion Toscano is another one of those kids, who as a freshman last year said, ‘oh, I’m not very good at this.’ He sat back and watched a lot and towards the end of the year last year, he was coming along. This year he is fourth in average right now; he has more at bats then some of the other guys, that just came back out of basketball, but he is feeling the confidence and is happy and knows what he is doing. Even as a sophomore, he is taking a little bit of a leadership role. He is seeing it, he is developing and is getting better.”
The Wolverines have nine or 10 freshmen, who came out to play baseball this year.
“Some of these guys have never played before and then there are some who have been playing in Little League the last few years,” Coach Atwood said. “You have some guys like Davey Crandall, who knows the game and understands everything going on and he helps coach those younger kids. Trace Goodman is going to be a pretty good back-up catcher and one who I think can develop into a really good catcher someday. Evan DeLeon is a middle infielder, who can do some great things, he just needs some time to get back into the swing of things. He is a good pitcher out of those three.”
He added, “Karson Jones will be playing first base. He just needs time to develop, like everyone else. He is also trying to learn how to pitch and is doing well. Josh Sammaron is an outfielder and you can tell he has played it. It’s all he has ever played, so he feels comfortable, but freshman mentality, we just have to get him going. We also have Sam Alderson, who I believe played Babe Ruth last year. Jose Galvan has never played before, so it’s still a lot of developing, but there are kids who have been in our system for a little while and they are clicking just like they did last year.”
The Coach explained that their pitching rotation will look a little different this year.
“I wouldn’t say we have just one overpowering guy to lean on like we have had in the past, but my guy who has the arm strength, has been consistent, wants to compete and feels comfortable on the mound is Jr Vargas,” he said. “Diego looked good the other day and Robert has also been consistent. That junior class has been developed and is really the one that we will probably lean on; those three guys.”
He added, “Matt is going to take some work to get him comfortable on the mound. He throws well in the bullpen, but he just needs to get comfortable in the game up there and that is just going to take time, just like everyone else. We also have the young ones, Davey, Evan, Trace and Karson, but they need their time to develop.”
“I’m also trying one more kid, my center fielder, Rolando Arenas. He can chunk the ball, he did some pitching in summer league last year and was consistent and could throw strikes, but he just needs that feeling of being on the mound, controlling the game.”
The coach talked about who has been a vocal leader for his team, saying, “Robert is that big-time guy that has been our vocal leader. He has a fire in him more this year than the last two years because he feels more invested and understands what is going on. Sometimes that fire consumes him and he can get a little bit over the top with it, but he is definitely a leader out there. Rolando is another big leader. He is one of those guys who likes to joke around and have fun, but at the same time things are going to get done.”
He added, “For the little guys, Davey is the leader of their pack, when he starts talking those guys listen. They definitely respect him and he will be a future leader one day.”
The coach said that he feels that they’re strong in the outfield as far as knowledge and game-play and they’re strong on the corners, but it is going to be the middle infield that is in question.
“That’s what I lost last year, so we’re going to have to develop there. It could be two freshman there or a freshman and sophomore that is playing that middle infield, but that is definitely our weakness,” he said. “It’s not a good thing for a baseball team to be weak up the middle, but we’ll battle around it.
He added, “Our hitting is what is going to keep us in games. Our line-up is pretty solid as far as hitters go, and then I’ve had some young guys who have surprised me, so I’m going to have to work those guys in and see what they can do. Our hitting and our outfield will hopefully keep us in games.”
The coach gave his outlook on the district, saying, “This year is the first time Crosbyton is a 1A in our district. They’re a must win and if we split with them, then we will have to have a tie-breaker to see who gets the number one seed in our district.”
He added, “Olton is solid and puts up a lot of runs, Lockney will be OK. Hale Center has a great coach, smart coach, who knows what he is doing. New Deal, returning from the State Tournament, they will be great. Floydada is going to be good. They have a good coach over there and good kids coming back. It’s going to be an uphill battle all year, trying to keep the kids motivated. But we have to beat Crosbyton to get that one seed in the 1A Play-offs.”