By Steve Keck
The Community News
The Aledo Bearcat Varsity Baseball team enters the 2011 season loaded with returning position players, but a lot of question makes about the pitching staff. All four starting pitchers from last season were lost to graduation. The Bearcats return six position starters from last season, five of whom made the All-District team. Below is a preview of the team going into the 2011 season:
Note: 1L means one year of varsity experience.
Catcher - Lawton Rinker (1L) returns following an All District junior year. Lawton was one of the team hitting leaders in 2010 and is expected to continue in that role this season. Rinker is one of the best receivers Aledo has come through the program in a while. Backing up Rinker will be junior Sam Scarborough. Sam was the primary catcher for the JV last year.Christopher Amos/Special to The Community News: Catcher Lawton Rinker is shown during a scrimmage on Feb. 15. Rinker was all-district in 2010.
First Base - Cody Smith is a returning letterman who will share time with first year varsity junior Bryan Cox. Cox has battled the injury bug the previous two seasons and is now fully healthy. He is being counted on to produce in the middle of the line-up while splitting time at the corners on defense. Bryan has excellent knowledge of the game, and because of his consistent hitting is the kind of player you need to find a spot in the line up.
Second Base - Devin Watts has looked good so far and will most likely start at second. He is a junior and this is his first year on the varsity. Devin is the type of hitter that sprays the ball to all fields and may assume the role of lead off hitter. He is coming off of shoulder surgery in the fall but should be 100 percent by the time the district season gets here. Senior Matthew Barron also joins the varsity for the first time and may also see some time at second.
Shortstop - Junior Matthew Bishop (1L) will again play shortstop where he earned All District honors last season. Bishop will be the lone returning starter in the infield and will be counted on to be the "quarterback" of the group - a position not unfamiliar to him. At the plate, Matthew is a strong contact hitter typical of a two-hole batter. Parker Turner is a first year senior varsity player who can also see some play at shortstop.
Third Base - Besides the aforementioned Cox, the hot corner will be manned by a rotation of sophomore Clayton Lowe and senior Zack Scott (1L). Scott is a returning letterman and All District award winner in 2010. He will primarily serve as the designated hitter. Zack is a pure hitter with an explosive swing. He was among the team leaders in RBIs last season. More of the same is anticipated from this solid senior. Lowe is a recent transfer from Godley. If the name sounds familiar, it should. Clayton grew up in Aledo watching his older brothers dominate on the diamond. Coach Barry was extremely excited to hear that the Clayton was returning to be a Bearcat. So far he has demonstrated solid defense to go along with a very quick bat.
Outfield - The vast Bearcat outfield will see four returning varsity players and two All District award winners. Rylan Riney (1L) will once again use his blazing speed to cover center field. Rylan was a converted infielder who switched to the outfield last year as a junior. It didn't take him long to master the position as he garnered an All District nod. His quickness also proves valuable on the bases as Riney is always a threat to steal a base.
Rejoining Riney to rove in right will be senior Sean O'Donnell (1L). Sean’s ability to get quick reads of the ball off the bat helped him master the prevailing south winds that cause havoc for Bearcat right fielders. Coach Barry likes O’Donnell’s knowledge of the game and his ability to correctly execute whatever the situation dictates. Sean also received an All District award last season.
The other two returning players are seniors Andrew Tort (1L) and Taylor Postier. Tort will most likely play in left where his strong arm will be counted on to reduce the number of bases given up. Andrew also saw time at DH as a junior, so his bat is expected to be a positive for the squad this season. Postier, originally a lefty first baseman, successfully moved to the outfield last season and as a result can be counted on to spell any of the three starters.
A newcomer to the team in the outfield is sophomore Caleb Frysinger. Caleb is a player in the mold of Riney with incredible speed and an above average arm. He may see some time in left field but will be primarily be groomed as the heir apparent for center. Also joining the team this season as first year varsity players will be seniors Ty Bowden and Ross Bronson. Bronson played for the JV last year while Bowden missed the past two seasons due to an arm injury.
Pitching Rotation – Pitching is the area of greatest concern to the varsity staff in 2011. All four 2010 starters were lost to graduation. Senior Clay Wooten (1L) will be the only member of this year’s rotation with any varsity experience. Clay is a big guy with an over the top delivery that pounds the zone. His fastball is not overpowering, but he has a nasty curve ball that makes his fastball more effective.
With so few spots locked up, many pitchers are getting a look to be a part of the rotation. An early favorite to be the staff ace is sophomore Matt Walker. Walker is a long and lanky kid that just looks like a pitcher. He pitched for the JV as a freshman last season and will be counted on to chew up innings this season. He consistently throws three pitches for strikes which makes him difficult to lock in on. Two junior hurlers moving up from the JV last season are Mason Taylor and Calloway Kirkpatrick.
Taylor is another big guy like Wooten. He is a hard throwing right hander that pounds the strike zone. Calloway is the antithesis of Taylor. He is a slight lefty that relies on cunning to get outs. He has good command of the zone and mixes his pitches well to keep opposing hitters off balance. Another junior making the jump to varsity is Trevor Parish. Trevor didn’t pitch last year due to some arm issues, but is completely healthy this season. He may be the hardest thrower of the bunch and should prove to be worthy if he stays around the strike zone.
Clayton Lowe is another potential for the rotation. He has pitched well in the past and may be counted on to do so again. Preferably, he will not be needed as any more than a spot thrower, so he can focus on his role in the infield. Rounding out the group is senior Andrew Whisnand. Andrew is another kid who is making his varsity debut. He has good control and throws a sneaky breaking ball that is tough to hit.
Outlook for District 5-4A
Going into the 2011 campaign, Birdville is considered by most to be the favorite to win the district followed closely by Boswell. They have returning All District players in many key positions and have been at or near the top consistently over the last few years. The Bearcats are probably on a par with Azle and Brewer regarding returning experience. Keller Timber Creek and Northwest Byron Nelson will be wild cards since they are both young and we’ve not seen them in the past. Both schools, however, are located in a baseball rich area that consistently produces talented baseball clubs.