In the second of a two-part series, the Avalanche-Journal previews the 2013 high school baseball season for five city teams.
Today: Monterey, Frenship, Lubbock High, Shallowater, Roosevelt.
If you missed Friday’s installment, check LoneStarVarsity.com for previews of Coronado, Cooper, Estacado, Trinity Christian, Lubbock Christian High and New Deal.
2012 finish: Second in District 2-5A; lost in bi-district playoff.
Kent Meador starts the conversation about his 2013 Monterey team by quickly pointing out it has a long way to go before it reaches the form he hopes it can be by the end of the season.
But the Plainsmen are certainly off to a great start, already piling up early season wins against the likes of Coronado, Waco Midway and Rockwall-Heath, the defending Class 4A state champion.
“I try to put together the toughest schedule we can put together,” Meador said, “and that’s what we’ve done.”
Though the Plainsmen have only five seniors, they have a number of players who have been in Meador’s program for at least two years, including junior slugger Travon Benton, who has played on the varsity squad since his freshman year.
Last season’s front-of-the-rotation starter, Kit Henderson, graduated but Monterey will start a number of pitchers who gained valuable experience last year, including Blake Walden, Luke Bradshaw and Logan Bradley.
“We’ve got quite a few arms,” Meador said. “We don’t have any who stand head and shoulders above the rest. We have to defend. That’s the key. We don’t have a guy that’s going to run up there and blow it by everybody, so we have to be solid on defense.”
Anchoring that defense will be senior catcher Trent Pearson, who must fill the shoes of last season’s team RBI leader in Colson Craddick.
“He’s done a good job,” Meador said. “He’s getting better with everything he does.”
Monterey has dropped down to Class 4A this year, joining fellow city teams Frenship and Lubbock High in what should be a highly entertaining district. Meador said he is excited about the district’s format this season, which will see teams play the same opponent Tuesday, Friday and Saturday.
“It will be just like old-school Southwest Conference baseball,” he said.
2012 finish: Second in District 3-4A
On paper, the Tigers have the look of a team that could stack up well in what will no doubt be a competitive District 4-4A race.
For the Tigers, that starts at the top with talented senior Stephen Smith, who is coming off a season in which he compiled a 2.27 ERA in 37 innings after being unable to pitch the first few weeks due to injury. He also hit .459 with five home runs and 26 RBIs.
Smith is not the only Tiger returning to the rotation. Seniors Aaron Rumfield and Kyle Rutherford and junior Jay Rawlins, who grew into a force last season after a limited role as a freshman, are also back and should give Frenship one of the area’s top set of arms.
Frenship also returns sophomore fireballer Chandler Casey, who showed strong flashes as a freshman with a fastball that can reach 90 mph.
The Tigers also boast one of the area’s top catcher’s in senior Bryndan Arredondo. He hit .347 with six doubles, three triples, a home run and 30 RBIs.
Bo Ricks, Cade Davis, Chad Curtis, Hunter Douglas and Darren Alexander are among the other returners who could make a big impacts for a Frenship that is aiming for a deeper postseason run after falling to Lake Dallas the bi-district round last season.
Frenship should also benefit from the addition of sophomore infielder Jake Salyer, who transferred to the school after playing his freshman season at Monterey.
■ Lubbock High
2012 finish: Last in District 2-5A; missed playoffs.
This season begins a new era for Lubbock High.
The Westerners have a new coach in veteran Steve Ribera, who is entering his 30th season as a high school baseball coach, and they are dropping down to Class 4A after struggling in recent years to compete at the 5A level.
“As we’ve told everybody, that drop down to 4A is half the battle,” Ribera said. “It gives them the idea they can compete after getting their lungs kicked in so many years in 5A. You’re already seen the success in football and in basketball.”
Ribera has reason to believe his team can follow the path of the teams in those two other sports who made the playoffs this season after lengthy droughts. Lubbock High hasn’t been to the playoffs in baseball since 2008.
“I like my kids,” Ribera said. “I was pleasantly surprised by the talent level. They can play a little bit. We have a good nucleus of some juniors and seniors.”
Two of the junior are right-handed pitchers Daniel James and Shane Browning, who gained solid experience as sophomores pitching against the talented bats in District 2-5A. Shorstop Michael Davis could also be poised for a big season after a strong campaign as a freshman.
“Right now it’s about finding that right lineup and right mix,” Ribera said. “It’s getting them in the right place and getting the right nine out there.”
2012 finish: Fifth in District 2-3A, missed the playoffs.
Shallowater are looking to bounce back after a rare down year that saw the team miss out on the postseason just a year after finishing a game short of the regional semifinals.
Luckily for the Mustangs, they return one of the area’s top players in Tyler Sturdivant, who did a little bit of everything last season while earning all-South Plains, all-city and all-state recognition.
Last year Sturdivant hit .494 with 18 doubles, four triples and a home run. He also recorded a 3.21 ERA in 67 2/3 innings of work. Among those joining Sturdivant on the mound this season will be Kiefer Schellhase.
Among the eight returners — the Mustangs lost only two letter-winners from last season — who should provide pop for the Mustangs offense is junior outfielder Cody Berryman, who last season earned second team all-South Plains honors and will likely start the year batting cleanup.
2012 finish: Fourth in District 3-2A, missed playoffs.
Lamar Kello takes over as the new Roosevelt coach for Shane Stewart, who left the program after eight seasons to take over the job at Snyder.
Kello inherits a team that lost eight letter-winners from last year’s team — including first team all-South Plains pitcher Curtis Sanchez and returns just four.
Michael Gilbert, Alex Rodriguez and Levi Sherrill are expected to anchor the pitching rotation for the Eagles, who finished fourth in the district last season after winning it the year prior.
Chris Young, a senior outfielder/pitcher, will be relied upon coming off a season in which he was named to the all-South Plains second team.
Kello, entering his 15th season as a high school coach, has a career record of 113-99.