The baseball concept that teams can never have too much pitching remains true — although winning teams usually have enough.
The talk circling around the 2020 Glen Rose Tigers suggests that they may enough pitching talent — plus overall experience — to make them the team to beat in the District 7-4A race.
Graduation took seven seniors from last season’s team that placed third in the district and was eliminated in the bi-district playoff round by Decatur. The Tigers had an overall record of 17-12.
“Depth on the pitching mound will be one of our strengths,” confirmed the GRHS leader James Evans, who is entering his 24th season as a high school varsity coach, and notched his 400th victory last April. “We’ve got a lot of guys returning.”
With nine seniors and a total of nine returning lettermen, Evans said the Tigers are “ahead of the game” compared to where they were at this point entering the 2019 campaign.
They include first-team all-district performers Michael Watson, Jadon Harper and all-state catcher Ashton Smith. Smith led the team with a .443 batting average and 31 runs batted in, and was voted as the district’s Co-Defensive Most Valuable Player for 2019.
Another key factor involves the “return” a player who has already proven to be a key performer both on the mound and at the plate.
Senior Davis Shackelford was recovering from elbow surgery last year, so he was unable to pitch coming off his sparkling sophomore season when he was voted as the district’s Pitcher of the Year. Shackelford struck out a combined total of 187 batters while pitching during his freshman and sophomore seasons, including a school record in 2018. He was voted Freshman of the Year following the 2017 season.
Shackelford is also a key bat in the lineup, which he proved again last year while earning all-district honors as the Tigers’ designated hitter. He recorded a .395 batting average in 43 at-bats.
“He’s almost 100 percent,” Evans said of Shackelford, who has signed early to play baseball for Weatherford College. “He’s looking better each time he gets on the mound.”
In addition to the luxury of having Watson, Harper and Shackelford share the starting duties on the mound, brothers Kanyon and Kasen Keese — along with Ashton Smith when needed — will be ready for relief pitching work.
For driving in runs, Evans will count on Smith, Shackelford and Harper to provide the hottest sparks. Other key contributions are expected to come from Ricky Douglas (second-team all-district as an outfielder), honorable mention all-district players Bryson Klein and Kanyon Keese, who was on the junior varsity last year, and senior outfielders Brit Blanchette and Austin Roach.
The team’s hitting may be one thing that will have to develop as the season moves along.
“We’re going to have to be able to hit the ball,” Evans said. “That’s one area we need to improve on, to get where we need to go.”
That, for all teams, would mean making the playoffs. The top four teams in the five-school baseball district will qualify.
“The district is all going to be tough. Stephenville and Godley will be right there.”
Evans added that Mineral Wells has a new coach, who has an outstanding reputation of success.
“If we can do that (have enough success at the plate), and catch a lot of breaks, I can see us going deep in the playoffs,” Evans said. “I”m excited, and ready for this year.”
The Tigers are scheduled to begin their regular-season schedule playing in the Everman High School tournament, Feb. 27-29. Their first home game is set for March 3 against Hamilton.