Glen Rose High School baseball coach James Evans already knew that he could no longer count on all-state second baseman Tyler Torres, who graduated last spring.
What he wasn’t counting on was going through the entire 2019 season without junior Davis Shackelford, who earned the honor of District 8-4A Pitcher of the Year in 2018.
Shackelford had been the most effective starting pitcher for the Tigers in both his freshman and sophomore years. But after suffering an injury to his right (throwing) shoulder during football, Shackelford had surgery and likely won’t return to action in baseball until his senior year.
Evans said he has 10 lettermen returning from last year’s 14-10 varsity squad. There should be some help on the way from younger players who played key roles on the junior varsity team that won 17 of its 21 games last spring.
“I’m looking forward to a lot of them stepping up. We’ll be inexperienced starting out,” Evans said. “We’ve got a lot of growing to do, but I think we’ll be fine after we get a few games under our belt.”
Regarding the loss of Shackelford, Evans said, “We’re going to have to take up a big role on the mound.”
Three pitchers who gained varsity experience last season should help fill the void — senior Coby Riley and juniors Michael Watson and Jaydon Harper. Last spring, Harper was a second-team all-district selection.
Junior catcher Ashton Smith, along with Jett Gould, River Costello in addition to Riley, Watson and Harper will also be counted on as key players this season.
“We’ve got some speed and we’ve got some guys that can move (baserunners) over,” Evans said. “But we’re definitely going to have to manufacture some runs.
“Those guys have been great leaders. They’re pretty focused on doing the right thing. I’m excited about this year. I want to see them grow and mature over the season. I’m looking forward to a great year with them.”
In the season-opening Gary Balch Classic Tournament last weekend, played in Crowley and Everman, the Tigers won three of their four games. They defeated Venus 15-3 and Fort Worth Castleberry 4-0, then fell to Class 5A Everman 5-2 and beat 5A Crowley 12-2.
Overall in the round robin event, Cody Riley went 8-for-13 at the plate, including 7 hits in his first 8 at-bats. Ashton Smith went 8-for-12 in the tournament, including 4-for-4 in the Crowley game.
“All of our pitchers pitched well,” Evans said. “I was impressed with the way they came out and played.”
Jaydon Harper was the winning pitcher in the Venus game, while Michael Watson earned the win over Castleberry. The winning pitcher in the Crowley game was Ashton Smith.
The Tigers improved to 4-1 overall on Monday with a single home game against Keene, taking a 10-0 decision with Harper earning the shutout victory on the hill. Ashton Smith drove in three runs to pace the offense, going 3-for-4.
Evans said that the toughest foes in district will be Godley, Stephenville and Brownwood. Mineral Wells rounds out the five-team alignment.
“All of the teams are pretty solid,” Evans said.
The Tigers are currently hosting the annual Harley “Hogg” Sinclair Memorial Tournament, which was slated to begin on Thursday, Feb. 28.
District 7-4A play will commence on March 26 with a road game in Mineral Wells.