Tiger baseball may not have had a winning record in 2012, but perhaps the groundwork has been laid for Glen Rose to take a step forward in the months to come.
The Tigers ended up 12-16 last year with a 6-4 mark and a third-place district finish. Glen Rose returns six starters in Hayden Bach, Cody Burtscher, Austin Gibson, Taylor Hansen, Curry Mapes and Hayden Holder. Many of those Tigers were all-district performers, including first team pitcher Bach, first team outfielder Burtscher, second team catcher Mapes and co-newcomer of the year Holder.
Regarding the roster, senior Bach pitches and plays shortstop.
"Hayden brings some leadership, and going into the season he'll be my No. 1 on the mound," said coach Kenny Toney. "We look for him to have another good year on the mound after being a first team all-district pitcher the last two years. He's very consistent and a great competitor."
Senior Burtscher will man centerfield.
"Cody does a good job in centerfield for us, but his competitiveness and leadership are also key," Toney said. "Cody brings some speed for us."
Senior Gibson will play right field.
Austin did a great job for us in right field last year, and he got some key hits during the season," Toney said. "Hopefully he can get back to form in right field again (returning from a leg injury) and be a great contributor at the plate."
Senior Hansen will play second base and be a pitching option.
"Taylor is a solid second baseman," Toney said. "I think he can drive in some runs for us in the middle of the lineup. Early in the season, I think he'll help us on the mound and maybe into district if it goes well for him."
Senior Mapes is the man behind the plate.
"Curry does a great job receiving the ball at catcher and blocking it," Toney said. "He takes charge from behind the plate. We need to get this bat rolling this year."
Senior Patrick Freehill will play first base and be a pitching option.
"Patrick played some on varsity last year," Toney said. "We're looking for him to play a lot more this year at first base and come through for us on the mound."
Senior David Culp is an outfielder.
"David is coming up from the JV to compete for the open outfield spot, and he'll have plenty of competition," Toney said. "He has a good eye at the plate."
Sophomore Holder could potentially play shortstop, second base and pitcher.
"Hayden was the co-newcomer of the year in the district as a freshman," Toney said. "He can play either middle infield spot, but I'm also looking for him to step up and get some innings on the mound to help us there."
Sophomore Preston Shuffield will be an infielder and a pitching option.
"Preston will play some third base, first base and help us out on the mound as well," the coach said. "He's a big boy, so hopefully he'll be able to drive in some runs for us."
Sophomore Chance Nabours will be a catcher and utility player.
"Chance will battle for an outfield position and back up Curry at catcher," Toney said. "He pitched on JV last year, so early in the season in tournaments maybe we'll give him a chance on the mound."
There are several other players under varsity consideration. Junior Carlin Linnabery is an outfielder.
"Carlin is another guy battling for the last outfield position," Toney said. "We just need to get him some more cuts at the plate."
Junior Dylan Whitlock is an outfielder.
"Dylan is in the mix for the outfield spot," the coach said. "If he could win the job he'd give us a left-handed batter at the plate, which we don't have many of. He runs well."
Sophomore Colton Lane is an infielder and a pitcher.
"We'll look at Colton in the infield - probably at third base," Toney said. "He'll get to battle for it, and whoever wins the job will also need to contribute at the plate. He has the ability to step up."
Sophomore Peyton Lytle is an outfielder.
"Peyton will be in the mix for the open outfield spot," Toney said. "He has pretty good speed; we'll just need him to be consistent at the plate."
Sophomore Jayton Dillard is a utility player.
"Jayton has infield experience, but we're going to throw him into the outfield mix," Toney said. "He runs well and did a good job running the bases in the playoffs last year."
Most quality teams are strong up the middle on defense, and that could pay off for the Tigers.
"Our defense up the middle should be a strength with Hansen (2B) and Bach or Holder (at SS)," Toney said. "Mapes gives us a good receiver at catcher, and Burtscher is dependable in centerfield. I would also say a strength is Hayden Bach at pitcher because he gives us a good No. 1 option."
Whoever wins the open spots will have to play at a high level.
"We'll have a new first baseman, a new third baseman and a new left fielder," Toney said. "(Those spots) will be filled by players with little to no varsity experience, so it's always a concern to see how they'll handle the pressure of varsity baseball."
Navigating 7-3A won't be easy, but Toney believes his team is up for the journey.
"If you pick the team to beat, I'm going to say it's Stephenville because last year in 4A they went several rounds deep," he said. "That's the obvious pick, but I think once we get everything going we can be pretty competitive. Alvarado is always competitive as well, so I think it will be a good district and we'll be right there in the mix."
The coach knows how he wants his team to play and what it's striving for.
"We're going to count on small ball to manufacture runs and put pressure on the other team," Toney said. "Part of that will be aggressive baserunning. We'd like to be the district champs and that's what we're aiming for. We'd also like to win the three tournaments we're in, especially the one we host."
Glen Rose opens its season in the Gatesville Tournament on Friday at 11 a.m. against Rogers and 2 p.m. versus Georgetown Eastview.
With a new turf field and some new Tigers in the mix, 2013 brings a fresh start and grand possibilities.