GLEN ROSE – As Glen Rose’s second-year head baseball coach, James Evans stood in front of his team on the first official day of high school baseball season, accountability, hustle, and an emphasis on a strong mental game were strongly relayed to the 30-or-so Tigers present.
Standing on the turf infield on a 78-degree day in January, and listening to a head coach who supports a hefty .685-winning percentage with a record of 343-153-5 and a state title over his 18-year career is about ideal a way to begin a season as one could ask for.
No, the Tigers are not returning any one of their four stud pitchers from last season’s 3A Regional Quarterfinal team that posted an 18-10-3 record, but that does not mean Evans has any lower expectations for this year’s bunch.
After all, the ultimate goal will always be to walk off Dell Diamond in Round Rock on the last day of the season with a win. Otherwise, why the hell even show up?
Last season ended prior to a trip to Round Rock, but was nothing to shake an ugly stick at. After dropping the first game of the postseason 1-0, the Tigers knocked off defending State Champion Sunnyvale 5-4 and 5-2.
Glen Rose went on to sweep Holiday, 6-2 and 11-7, to advance to the third round of the high school baseball playoffs and a matchup with Pottsboro.
Evans’ squad stole game one, 3-0 before being blown out in game two, 9-0.
Glen Rose’s Hayden Holder entered the fifth inning of game three around the 50-pitch mark and cruising with the Tigers leading, 5-0. Five walks, two hit batters and five hits later and the Tigers were down, 10-5.
“It was just a bad inning. Hayden was cruising and then the wheels just fell off,” said Evans of the 10-7 game-three loss.
That was then, this is now.
There are seven returners with varsity experience from last season’s team and three of those were starters.
Honorable mention All-State outfielder, Dylan Hammond will continue to man centerfield and the No. 3-spot in the Tigers batting order. Hammond slugged 35 hits, four doubles, two triples and four home runs last season and drove in 23 runs in the process. The fleet footed outfielder also snagged 11 stolen bases and scored 26 runs. All are numbers that led to TexasHighSchoolBaseball.com naming Hammond one of the top-35 players in the region to watch in 2016.
“Dylan has a little pop in his bat and can cover some ground in the outfield, as well,” Evans said.
Recent UT-Dallas commit, Drayton Williams will pickup his duties behind the plate after his 27-hit, 18 RBI, 17 runs scored, four doubles and two triples campaign from a year ago.
“Drayton may have to pitch some for us this year, but he is solid behind the plate,” said Evans of his catcher with a sub-three pop time. “He is smart behind the plate and pays attention to the batters. When they come up, he remembers them. He had a solid year last year, so that is going to be a big plus for us.”
Shortstop Layne McAnear is bringing his 24 hits, 23 runs scored and 13 RBI back to the Tigers’ order this season as the team’s third, and final, returning everyday starter.
“Layne will do whatever you ask of him and it is important to have those team first kind of guys,” Evans said. “Some of the shots he hit last season were right at people but he has a little pop."
While not an everyday starter, junior infielder and pitcher Camron Rush will bring some much needed versatility and experience to Evans’ squad in 2016. Rush collected 10 hits, seven runs scored and five runs batted-in a season ago, and can play virtually any position on the field, Evans said.
“Last year he was kind of our utility player,” Evans said. “We are looking for a good year out of him this year and hope he can continue to help us wherever we need him on the field.”
Outfielders Gage Costello and Gus Stoner are two players Evans is looking forward to evaluating and both bring back a little varsity experience.
Devin Crawford is one guy Evans is looking most to impress and impact in a bigger way than last year. Classified as a crafty-left handed pitcher, Evans said he is expecting Crawford to play a little first base along with continuing his outstanding strikeout rate on the bump.
In only 10.3 innings last season, Crawford accumulated 21 punchouts.
“Devin has a lot of pop, bats on the left side and stays inside of the ball well,” Evans said. “I know he has been working hard this offseason.
“He’s baseball smart and understands the game inside and out. We are counting on him to hopefully be our No. 1 pitcher coming in and to carry us a little.”
Other players to look out for, include:
Tyler Torres, middle infield
Ty Campbell, infield
Codey Barker, third base, pitcher, outfield
Zane Gould, outfield
Reese Nickel, first base
Brazos Overton, utility
The Tigers begin the season with a scrimmage on Feb. 8 at home against future district foe, Alvarado, before opening up with two seven-inning games at home against Blooming Grove.