The 2018 District 8-4A baseball playoff race should be one of the toughest in the state, with three of the schools ranked in the preseason top 20.

Coach James Evans’ Glen Rose Tigers were 3-9 in district play last season, and 12-11 overall.

They opened the regular season with an 8-2 victory over Keene on Monday. Glen Rose was scheduled to play in a tournament last weekend in Everman to kick off the season, but was rained out.

This weekend the Tigers are hosting their annual Harley "Hogg" Sinclair Tournament. They were scheduled to play yesterday (Thursday) versus Tolar. Today's tournament schedule for the Tigers includes a 3 p.m. game against Grandview, and a 5 p.m. contest with Irving Ranchview. On Saturday in the tournament, the Tigers are slated to play at 1 p.m. against Springtown and at 3 p.m. versus Crawford.

One preseason poll (Texashighschoolbaseball.com) has Godley firmly planted as the No. 2 team in the state entering this season. Godley has four players who have signed to play college baseball with Division I schools.

Midlothian Heritage was 14th in that same online poll, and Stephenville was ranked 19th. A fourth team from the Tigers’ district, Alvarado, was also mentioned as one of the state’s next 10 best squads.

“Our district is tough,” Evans said. “All of the schools have just about everybody back.”

But, Evans said, the Tigers have their sights set on being one of the top four teams that will make the playoffs.

“Our goal is to get better each day, then make the playoffs and win our last ballgame. We talk about that every day. In baseball, anything can happen.”

Among the returnees for the 2018 Tigers is first-team all-district and all-state infielder Tyler Torres, and ace pitcher Davis Shackelford. Torres led the team in hitting, while Shackelford posted an incredible 0.66 earned run average and struck out 90 batters in 53 innings. Although Shackelford, who was voted the district’s Newcomer of the Year, gave up 15 runs, 10 of them were unearned.

Torres posted a .480 average last season, and also led the team in runs scored with 32.

“He’s fast and smart and he knows the game of baseball,” Evans said. “He’s the type of player you can put anywhere — outfield or middle infield.”

Evans said that Shackleford has shown improvement even over last season’s outstanding performance level.

“He’s real confident on the baseball field,” Evans said.

Evans lost six seniors to graduation, and is looking for some players to take over the team’s leadership role.

“That’s what we’ve got to have, is leadership,” Evans said. “We need leaders to step up this year. We’re a young team. We’ve got a lot of growing to do. But our attitude and energy and effort have been outstanding so far.”

A younger player Evans is expecting to help with a leadership role is sophomore catcher Ashton Smith, who was on the junior varsity last season.

Senior Adrian Lewis, a returning letterman, is a hard worker who is likely to be playing first base.

In addition to Shackelford’s skills on the mound, several other pitchers could provide good depth for the Tigers.

They include returning lettermen Conner Hanson, a senior left-hander, along with Chance Hatfield. Hansen and Hatfield also will be contributing as outfielders.

Junior Jett Gould also will have a chance to help with the pitching duties, and can also help in either the infield or outfield.

Evans said that sophomore pitcher Michael Watson, who was on the junior varsity last year, had some good outings in scrimmages this season and has worked hard to improve.

Another pitching prospect is newcomer Jaydon Harper, a sophomore who moved in from Andrews. He also plays third base and first base.

And newcomer Coby Riley, a junior who moved in from Collinsville, could become one of the team’s top pitchers and also plays shortstop.

“We’ve got a bunch of guys that throw,” Evans noted. “After the next few tournaments, we’ll get a good idea but I’m confident we will be solid pitching-wise.”

Junior returning letterman River Costello is coming off of knee surgery and Evans is hoping he will return at full strength to contribute as a first baseman, third baseman or designated hitter.

Garrett Gilbert is an outfielder who was on the JV last season and could contribute this year. Ryan Sieg and Bryon Pounds also should help in the outfield.

As for the team’s hitting prospects beyond the rock-steady Torres, Evans is looking for improvement.

“Hopefully it’s better,” Evans said. “We’re going to have to score runs. It’s still early. We’ve got to see a lot more live pitching. All the kids are coachable, so we should be able to make adjustments.”

The Tigers had a number of one-run games in 2017, in which a key hit could have produced a win.

“Last year we would have a runner in scoring position, and we couldn’t get a key hit,” Evans said. “We lost five or six games by one run. We were in every game (but) just one hit would have made a difference.”