Category: Baseball

DANIEL YOUNGBLOOD: ‘What Might Have Been’ series a labor of love

In most years, I’d be spending this week decompressing from a long and eventful high school sports season.

The state baseball tournament, originally slated to wrap up Saturday, would have marked the end of an 11-month marathon for us here at Big Country Preps while signalling the beginning of our preparation for a new one.

Unfortunately — and I don’t think I’m breaking any news when I say this — 2020 has not been a normal year. Instead of following my strict routine with near ritualistic devotion, I’ve just been waiting for the next curveball and hoping  to foul it off.

To say it’s been a challenge would be an understatement. But it’s out of challenges that some of our best work comes, and I’d like to think that was the case with our “What Might Have Been” feature series, which ends today with this column.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Young aces continue grind despite COVID-19 shutdown

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15.

After flashing ace potential as freshmen in 2019, Jim Ned’s Tate Yardley, Anson’s Trevor Miller and Winters’ J.P. Killough had big things planned for their respective sophomore campaigns.

The three hurlers, part of a young crop of Big Country pitching standouts that also includes fellow sophomores Brooks Gay of Wylie and Snyder’s Derek Dominguez, were hoping to take the next step in their development and further cement their places among the area’s top arms.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent suspension/cancellation of all spring sport seasons by the University Interscholastic League limited their mound time to a handful of early-season outings. But it hasn’t kept them from continuing their pursuit of excellence.

All three have remained active in their training through the shutdown, viewing this period as little more as a speed bump on the way to their ever-increasing goals.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Senior-heavy Brady baseball team was poised to make history

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

When Brady graduates Shay Easterwood and Rocky Bernal returned to their alma mater three years ago — the former as the head football coach and athletic director and the latter as the head baseball coach — both knew the sophomore class they were inheriting was destined for big things.

In just their second year on the BHS campus, that group formed the nucleus for virtually every boys program, giving both coaches a promising future to look forward to.

This fall, Easterwood got to see that potential realized as his senior-heavy squad went 4-1 through district to make its first playoff appearance since 2016. Unfortunately for Bernal, he never got that same opportunity in the spring.

After getting off to a 9-2 start, the Bulldogs were stopped in their tracks by the COVID-19 pandemic. And when the University Interscholastic League’s spring sport suspension became a full-on cancellation, Bernal and his players were left to imagine what the rest of the season might have held.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: COVID-19 was the last of Zant’s setbacks in 2019-2020  

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Photos by Chester Reynolds 

The cancellation of high school sports because of the COVID-19 pandemic was the last of three setbacks Hico senior Karson Zant faced during the 2019-2020 school year.

Zant rehabilitated through a football knee injury last fall and a baseball shoulder injury early this spring. But after returning to good health for Hico’s first two district baseball games, Zant ran into an obstacle he couldn’t rehab. On March 13, the COVID-19 pandemic initially suspended and eventually canceled all spring sports, including baseball.

“I thought for sure we were coming back when they first stopped everything,” said Zant, who continued to work out for baseball on his own. “I saw a quote on Twitter about the layoff that really motivated me. It said something like, ‘There are people who will not take this seriously. But six or seven of your teammates will work hard during the time off and come back and look completely different.’

“That kept me motivated to work harder to be better and help my team.”

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GAME STORY: Exhibition doubleheader provides closure for Breckenridge baseball team

If you had asked members of the Breckenridge baseball team before the season where they wanted to be on June 4, they likely would have told you either playing in or preparing for the Region I-3A championship series.

But after having a potential dream season cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, Thursday’s exhibition doubleheader with Aledo served as a pretty nice consolation prize for the Buckaroos.

Hosting the Class 5A No. 12 Bearcats in an unsanctioned event put together by senior standout Owen Woodward’s father, Brad, the Bucks swept the twin bill 4-0 and 7-5 to put a bow as best they could on a campaign that may have ended in Round Rock under different circumstances.

And while it wasn’t the ending a senior-heavy Breckenridge squad was hoping for, getting one last opportunity to take the field together provided the close-knit Bucks a sense of closure they wouldn’t have otherwise felt.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Stamford baseball was hoping to build on surprise playoff run

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Coming off a surprise run to the Region I-2A quarterfinals last spring, the Stamford baseball team entered this season hoping for a strong follow-up campaign.

And after a slow start out of the gate while some young players adjusted to new or bigger roles, the Bulldogs were headed for just that when play was stopped by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Regrouping from an 0-2-1 run at the Hamlin Rock Field Baseball Classic, Stamford evened its record at 3-3-1 with wins in three of its last four games, including victories over quality teams from Anson (5-4) and Windthorst (6-2). But before coach Kevin Bartley’s Bulldogs could parlay that momentum into something more substantial, the season was suspended and later canceled by the University Interscholastic League.

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EVAN REN: We can all use some good news and football can provide some of it

In a world that has seemingly gone mad, I’ll take any dose of good news that I can find — even if it’s mundane.

The stock market inched up a half point? I’ll take it. We can go back to worrying about COVID-19? I’m all-in. The buildings in Abilene are still standing? That’s a check mark in the plus column. 

So how do we get there? 

How do we reestablish normality? 

Aside from the obvious fact that we need to stop the ongoing mayhem that is plaguing our society, getting back to common things we all hold dear will set the foundation for healing. And I’m talking about the simplest of pleasures, from peaceful walks in the park, shopping in a mall, going to the movies or attending a sporting event. 

In Texas, the latter cannot be overstated, especially when it comes to football. 

Continue reading “EVAN REN: We can all use some good news and football can provide some of it”

DANIEL YOUNGBLOOD: Region I-3A playoff race huge loss for this baseball junkie

Those who know me well know that I’m a “baseball guy” at heart.

I love football and basketball, but baseball’s my sport. It’s the one I played the longest and the one I follow most diligently now.

As a sportswriter, I enjoy covering all sports, but come springtime, there’s one I look forward to more than any other. And the baseball playoffs, in particular, have always held a special place in my heart.

So I had little trouble empathizing with our area players and coaches about the premature ending of the 2020 season as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. I was almost as heartbroken as they were when the University Interscholastic League pulled the plug on the season just a few weeks in.

There were so many things I was looking forward to watching and never got to see play out. And perhaps nothing climbed higher on that list than a Region I-3A playoff race that was shaping up to be one for the ages.

Continue reading “DANIEL YOUNGBLOOD: Region I-3A playoff race huge loss for this baseball junkie”

EVAN REN: 10 things I’ll take away from the COVID-19 pandemic

I’ve always held to a personal axiom that perspective is everything. True or not, how we view a situation becomes the truth in our minds.
There’s no escaping it and every one of us has our own perspective

Well, the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown have changed my perspective in several ways on several different things. And for a middle-aged guy who is pretty well set in my ways, this is like the planets aligning.

I’ve managed to list my top 10 takeaways from lockdown, as they pertain to this website and what we’re trying to accomplish here.

Let’s dive in: 

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Hamlin baseball keeping positive outlook despite shortened season

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

After watching a young team take a nice step forward last spring, Hamlin baseball coach Ryne Lucas had the 2020 season circled as the year his Pied Pipers would finally break through as a district title contender.

And with HHS sporting a top-10 ranking in Class 1A from txhighschoolbaseball.com at the time of the COVID-19 shutdown, it wasn’t just those within the Hamlin city limits that felt bullish about this year’s Pipers.

Unfortunately, Hamlin’s season was cut short by the global pandemic just six games in. But Lucas saw enough during that 3-3 start to believe that the 2020 campaign — truncated though it may have been — could still go down as a positive turning point for his program.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Breckenridge standout sees a winter of rehab go to waste

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Since tearing the ACL in his right knee in a Sept. 6 football game at Comanche, Breckenridge senior Kooper Shook has been diligently working on rehabbing the injury in preparation for baseball. 

That has often involved three 130-mile trips per week to Southlake for physical therapy while patiently waiting for his doctor’s approval for him to suit up and get on a baseball diamond. 

Finally, the nod from his physician was only days away in March. The work he had put in would, at last, pay dividends. 

Then it happened.

Shook, along with every other high school athlete in Texas was sidelined indefinitely by the University Interscholastic League’s COVID-19 lockdown. By April 17, the lockdown had evolved into an outright cancellation of spring sports across the state as a safety measure, leaving Shook with no opportunity to compete as a high school player ever again. 

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BCP Podcast No. 95: Breckenridge baseball coach Kevin Bartley joins Evan, Daniel

Breckenridge baseball coach Kevin Bartley had what may have been the best team in school history this season, but he and the Buckaroo faithful will never get to find out for sure thanks to the COVID-19 shutdown.

On Tuesday, Bartley took some time to chat with Big Country Preps’ Evan Ren and Daniel Youngblood about this team, what he felt it was capable of and what he told his 10 seniors when the UIL’s spring sport cancellation ended their careers prematurely for this week’s Capital Farm Credit Wednesday Night Podcast.

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Young Jim Ned Indians look ahead to brighter future

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

With the way his team was playing at the time of the COVID-19 shutdown, Jim Ned baseball coach Ryan Lewis has every right be disappointed by the the abrupt and premature end to the Indians’ 2020 season.

Holding a 6-2 record with close losses to top-10 teams from Breckenridge (5-4) and Wall (5-3), Jim Ned was well on its way to building on the 20-10 mark and area-round playoff finish it achieved in 2019.

But rather than let that fact push him toward bitterness, Lewis has chosen to take a different — and perhaps surprising — posture. One of gratitude.

With no seniors on this year’s roster, the former Abilene High baseball coach was spared the types of heart-wrenching conversations many of his coaching friends have had to have with their veteran players. And though the Indians will never know just how good they might have been had this season continued uninterrupted, the horizon before them is every bit as bright as the one coronavirus put in the rearview.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: New Dublin facilities and spring momentum will have to wait

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Bob Cervetto is patiently awaiting a return to normalcy.

Dublin’s athletic director and head football coach misses the hectic spring sports season. He misses watching his athletes competing and working out daily.  

“It scares me to death because you never know where your kids are going to be,” Cervetto said. “I’m just like every other coach in the state — I hope they are doing something.”

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Cooper seniors miss out on home game experience, chance at turnaround

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Sitting at 2-9 on March 10 after a 6-1 loss to Wichita Falls High in its district opener, the Cooper baseball team was off to a slower start than it was hoping for when play was halted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

But with the start of the Abilene ISD Tournament — and the Cougars’ first opportunity to play on their newly renovated home field — slated for March 12, there was a shared sense of optimism among coach Cody Salyers and his players.

The Coogs, who have typically finished stronger than they’ve started under Salyers, had all of their biggest games and goals ahead of them. And the chance to become the first CHS team to play its home games under lights and on a turf field had them riding a wave of excitement into the meat of their schedule.

Unfortunately for Salyers’ squad, that chance never came. And thanks to the global pandemic that forced the University Interscholastic League to suspend and later cancel all spring sporting events, it never will for the team’s five seniors.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Experienced Bulldogs had high hopes for district

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Photos by Linda Moody 

Sitting at 7-1-1 when this season was stopped by the COVID-19 outbreak, the Coahoma baseball team’s record was almost identical to the 6-2-1 mark the Bulldogs had posted in nondistrict play the year before.

But first-year head coach Chris Arista and his players were convinced this group was different from the 2019 squad that closed its campaign with a 3-9 run through District 5-3A.

With nine seniors on its 17-player roster, Coahoma was the most experienced team in a league that also featured Clyde, Jim Ned, Anson and Merkel. And as such, the Bulldogs were determined to take a step forward after losing out to Merkel for the fourth playoff spot last spring.

Unfortunately, due to the University Scholastic League’s April 17 decision to cancel all spring sports, they never got that opportunity. And while Arista firmly believes his team was destined for success, he’ll never quite know just how things might have played out under different circumstances.   

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Bearcats never got to enjoy fruits of tough pre-district schedule

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Photos by Madisyn Stone

Judging solely by its record, it would be easy to underestimate the potential the De Leon baseball team possessed in 2020.

Sitting at 3-5 when the COVID-19 outbreak stopped their season in its tracks, the Bearcats hardly had the type of win-loss mark you’d expect from a two-time defending district champion that was gearing up for a run at its third in a row.

But records can be deceiving, and that was certainly the case for De Leon, which had played six of its first eight games against larger competition in preparation for its District 6-2A schedule. With pre-district matchups against Class 4A playoff teams from China Spring and Glen Rose, as well as Class 3A No. 1 Brock, the Bearcats were put through a ringer that first-year head coach Ricky Barrett was certain would pay off in time.

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EVAN REN: Virus may teach us some appreciation (for a while)

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”
— Voltaire 

There’s a barbeque place near my home that I don’t like. In fact, I seldom go there — deliberately bypassing it whenever the BBQ craving hits me in favor of better choices. 

But Friday, after two months of COVID-19 exile, I decided to make a quick run to bring home some brisket for the wife and I and elected to go to the very place I try to avoid because it was convenient. 

Funny how one’s perspective can change while in isolation.

Abilene’s worst barbeque was suddenly good. In fact, it was beyond good. It was like freakin’ nirvana. 

I suspect that’s the way it’s going to be with virtually everything I had taken for granted before the lockdown. And I’m already experiencing some of it.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Sans seniors, No. 1 Brock baseball was still state threat

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

During a time when most coaches throughout the area, state and country are having to wish premature farewells to the seniors on their rosters, Brock’s Hart Hering is thankful to have dodged that most painful of bullets.

The only senior slated to return for the Eagles’ 2020 baseball team, pitcher/utility man Caleb Satterfield, transferred to Pecos for the spring, leaving Hering with a squad full of juniors, sophomores and freshmen.

But if you think that made it any easier to step away from the 8-1-1 start that had garnered Brock the No. 1 ranking in Class 3A from Txhighschoolbaseball.com, you would be mistaken. Ever the competitor, Hering was looking forward to putting his young bunch up against senior-led state hopefuls from Bushland (No. 2), Breckenridge (No. 3) and Wall (No. 7), and he shared those teams’ pain when the University Interscholastic League announced it would be canceling all spring sports in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Loaded Ira Bulldogs felt this was their year

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

When you’ve been in coaching as long as Toby Goodwin has, you know what an elite team looks like. 

So when the Ira coach says this year’s Bulldogs had a baseball state tournament appearance in their sights, he’s not just blowing smoke.

Unfortunately, neither he, his players or the Ira community will ever get a chance to find out just how good this year’s squad was. And instead of being remembered as the group that finally broke through for an Ira program that has been knocking at the door for years, the 2020 Bulldogs will be the one that (only) COVID-19 took down.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Baseball in the blood for Rotan’s Van Poppel

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Photos by Trish Hurt, Double Mountain Chronicle

With the last name he has, Cole Van Poppel was almost destined to end up on a pitcher’s mound.

For the Rotan senior and nephew of former major-leaguer Todd Van Poppel, baseball — and pitching, in particular — runs in the blood.

So to say it was tough to have his final high school season — and final opportunity to lead the Yellowhammers to the playoffs — cut short by the COVID-19 outbreak and the University Interscholastic League’s subsequent decision to cancel the 2020 spring sports season, is a fairly sizable understatement.

And though the opportunity to continue his career at Temple College and memory of pitching a perfect game in his final high school start serve as some consolation, part of him will always be left to wonder what might have been.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Cisco, Adams had lofty goals in 2020

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Coming off an 18-6 season that saw them capture the District 6-3A title, the Cisco Loboes and coach Mark Adams had high hopes heading into the 2020 campaign and were equipped to pursue them. 

That is, until the rug was pulled out from under them by the COVID-19 outbreak and the subsequent lockdown and cancellation of all spring sporting events by the University Interscholastic League as a safety measure. 

In the process, four Cisco seniors — Gibson Hearne, Stanley Callahan, Cam Nichols and Dawson White — have seen their high school athletic careers forever placed on a speculative shelf, with no way to confirm the potential many saw in them.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Young Merkel Badgers see progress halted by COVID-19

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Unlike many of the teams asking themselves, “What might have been?” after the University Interscholastic League’s decision to cancel the remainder of the spring sports season due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Merkel baseball squad will feature a very similar roster when play returns next year.

The Badgers lose just one senior, outfielder Hunter Barnes, from this year’s group, which was off to an 7-2-1 start when play was halted.

But for a program on the rise, that was hoping to build on last year’s 9-14 record and bi-district playoff appearance, the effects of this stoppage will still be felt in a major way. Instead of getting to use the District 5-3A season to show how much they’ve grown and the playoffs to take the next step in their development, the Badgers will be spending their spring and summer at home, hoping the lost time won’t have cost them too much when they finally get back on the field next year.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Haskell coach, son have final baseball season together cut short

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15 or until the UIL rules that high school athletics statewide may resume. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

When Kevin Compton took the head baseball coach position in Haskell four years ago, it was for one specific purpose: to coach his son Koby through high school.

Kevin had been coaching in Waco before that, and moving to Haskell would give him an opportunity to get closer to his son both literally and figuratively.

So to see that experience — and his son’s senior season — cut short by the COVID-19 crisis has brought an extra wave of emotions for the father and son in addition to those felt as coach and player. And now that the 2020 season has officially been canceled by the University Interscholastic League, a decision that came down on Friday, both Kevin and Koby are having to come to grips with the fact that their time in matching uniforms is over. 

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Bartley’s hopes for Buckaroos dashed with final announcement

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Throughout the statewide COVID-19 interscholastic lockdown, Breckenridge baseball coach Kevin Bartley quietly waited and tried to maintain a positive frame of mind. 

It was important for him to do so, in order for him to convince his players to do the exact same thing. 

Then the other shoe dropped. 

With Friday’s announcement by the University Interscholastic League that all spring sports seasons have been cancelled due to the pandemic, Bartley was faced with the fact that what may have been the best Breckenridge baseball team in 30 years would never have the chance to prove it. 

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BREAKING: 2020 FCA All-Star Festival canceled

The Big Country chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes made the decision on Thursday morning to officially cancel its 2020 All-Star Festival in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is with heavy disappointment due to continued risks and uncertainties associated with the widespread Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic that the Big Country Fellowship of Christian Athletes staff has made the difficult decision to cancel the Big Country Chevy Dealers 21st annual FCA All-Star Festival scheduled for the week of June 7-13, 2020,” the organization said in a press release.

There was brief talk of postponing to a later date, but ultimately the organization decided that cancellation was best in the current climate, said FCA Area Director Andy Penney.

Continue reading “BREAKING: 2020 FCA All-Star Festival canceled”

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Hawley was poised for deep playoff run before pandemic

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15 or until the UIL rules that high school athletics statewide may resume. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Despite a modest 5-4 nondistrict record, the Hawley baseball team was positioning itself for another serious run at an elusive UIL state tournament berth. That is, until the coronavirus pandemic suspended UIL sports indefinitely.

The Bearcats last year won playoff series against Miles, Ozona and Stamford before falling 2-1 in a regional semifinal series against New Deal. All three games against New Deal were decided by one run. Hawley ended the season with a 23-13-1 record, which is why veteran coach Jamie Seago wasn’t concerned with the Class 2A Bearcats’ 5-4 start this season.

“Every school we had played was bigger than we are. We hadn’t played any other 2A teams yet,” said Seago, Hawley’s eighth-year coach who had seven returning starters for this season. “Our record is never an indicator of what kind of team we have.

“We’re never going to be that team that’s 36-0. It’s not about the wins and losses to us. If we’re playing well at the end of the season, our overall record doesn’t matter.”

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Clyde’s Deal hoping for chance to end career in fitting fashion

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15 or until the UIL rules that high school athletics statewide may resume. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Clyde senior Christian Deal had been working for this moment his entire career.

After spending his first two years on varsity as a super utility player, the do-it-all standout had finally found himself anchored at his two most natural positions as the Bulldogs’ starting shortstop and de facto pitching ace.

But despite excelling in both roles during a start coach Colby Rowley described as “phenomenal,” Deal has seen what should have been a dream season cut short by the COVID-19 outbreak that now threatens the spring sports season for all Texas athletes. Instead of backing up last year’s all-state season with an even stronger senior campaign, Deal has no choice but to wait out a state-mandated shutdown at home and wonder if his days as a baseball player are over.

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BCP Podcast No. 89: Albany’s David Fairchild talks COVID-19 shutdown with Evan, Daniel

After leading his team to state tournament appearances in 2017 and 2019, Albany baseball coach David Fairchild may have had his best squad yet this season. But after starting 7-0, the second-ranked Lions had their season shut down by the COVID-19 outbreak.

On Tuesday, Fairchild joined Big Country Preps’ Evan Ren and Daniel Youngblood for the Capital Farm Credit Wednesday Night Podcast to talk about this year’s team, how he’s handling the COVID-19 shutdown and what he’s hoping will happen over the next couple of months. 

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Anson sophomore Miller was to spearhead young, improving Tiger squad

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15 or until the UIL rules that high school athletics statewide may resume. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Photos courtesy of Daril Gonzales, Anson Tigers Sports Pics

Anson’s Trevor Miller is a sophomore so the suspension of UIL spring sports because of the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t interrupted his final high school season. But baseball is Miller’s only sport so the timing of the stoppage cut just as deep.

“I just play baseball so it’s disappointing. It’s good to have my brother to practice with,” Miller said of his freshman brother, Nick. “He and I throw to each other and take swings. We have a batting cage at home so we can hit in the cage.

“We’re doing all we can to stay in shape and be ready in the hope that we can get back to playing.”

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Co-aces West, Neve had Albany poised for state tournament return

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15 or until the UIL rules that high school athletics statewide may resume. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

After leading the Albany baseball program to its second state tournament appearance in a three-year span last season, Lions coach David Fairchild didn’t have to squint too hard to envision a similar run this spring.

The 27-year coaching veteran had graduated just three seniors from last year’s 23-8 squad and was returning a pair of pitching aces in senior Ben West and junior Cade Neve.

Those realities — and the 7-0 start to which they heavily contributed — have only made things more difficult for Fairchild and his Lions since their season was halted in its tracks by the COVID-19 outbreak and the University Interscholastic League’s related decision to suspend all sanctioned activities in mid March.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Wall baseball’s title defense put on hold

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15 or until the UIL rules that high school athletics statewide may resume. If you have a suggested story for the “What might have been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Coming off its first state championship in program history, the Wall baseball team entered this season eager to defend its title.

With eight key seniors graduating off that 39-1 squad, a repeat run through the Class 3A bracket would not be easy, but the Hawks returned a pair of all-state pitchers in Caleb Heuertz and Luke Young and viewed this as more of a reloading job than a rebuild.

Sitting at 9-3-1 on March 12 with the start of District 4-3A play on the horizon, everything was going according to plan for coach Jason Schniers and his players — until, that is, the COVID-19 outbreak and University Interscholastic League’s subsequent shutdown intervened.

In a matter of days, the Hawks went from gearing up for the district season and another strong playoff push to wondering if they’d get to take the field again at all in 2020. And three weeks later, with school suspended indefinitely and the players and coaches separated, little has changed to ease their uncertainty.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Coaching change shifts Winters’ philosophy

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15 or until the UIL rules that high school athletics statewide may resume.  If you have a suggested story for the “What might have been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

This was not how Derek Dallas and Brady Keane saw their first season with the Winters baseball team going.

Last year, Dallas was an assistant in Snyder before becoming the head baseball coach for the Blizzards this year. Keane, his assistant, was a sportswriter with the Denton Record-Chronicle covering high school athletics.

The duo spent this season working on reinvigorating the Blizzards baseball team and changing the mentality of the program.

To say that they were successful after 10 games, before the UIL shut down games due to the Coronavirus, would be a gross understatement.

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EVAN REN: Big Country baseball, softball hit hard during corona outbreak

Come springtime, I’ve always been a big baseball and softball guy, which makes my current life in exile all the more difficult. 

With the entire country on a virtual lockdown and me stuck in my office until further notice, I can’t help but be torn between doing what’s right and thinking about what has been lost. 

Globally, very few will escape the coronavirus outbreak without being affected in some way, shape or form. But on a personal level, it means contemplating the loss of one great season after another. Barring a sudden turnaround, hundreds of irreplaceable memories that could have been, will simply never materialize.

So, am I of the opinion that the rest of the athletic competition for this school year will be lost?

SIGH … I hope I’m wrong. But yes, I believe it’s over.

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LOCAL BASEBALL ROUNDUP: Wylie, Cooper fall to open league play

ALEDO — The Wylie baseball team opened District 4-5A play with a tough 3-2 road loss to Aledo, seeing 2-0 lead evaporate over the final four innings.

The Bulldogs scored single runs in the first and third innings to go up early, but the Bearcats trimmed the lead to one run in the fourth before completing the rally with a two-run sixth.

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FEATURE: De Leon’s Powledge makes first start, prepping for full mound return

Photos by Madisyn Stone

Even before De Leon pitcher Lane Powledge began putting up gaudy statistics last season, teammate Kevin Yeager knew what was possible.

Yeager — a De Leon senior last year and the school’s best all-around athlete be it in football, basketball, golf or baseball — was set to be the Bearcats’ No. 1 pitcher in 2019. But once he saw how well Powledge, then an unknown sophomore, was throwing, Yeager made a profound statement.

“You’ve got to realize that Kevin (now a college quarterback) was a special athlete. He was in his senior year and ready to be our No. 1 pitcher,” said De Leon head baseball coach Ricky Barrett, the Bearcats’ assistant coach last year.

“Kevin told us we had something special in Lane. He said, ‘Man, Lane is throwing really well. Put me at shortstop and make Lane the No. 1 pitcher, and we can compete with anybody.’”

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BIG COUNTRY PREPS PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Clyde’s Turner takes top spot with two perfectos

In a week that saw a ton of noteworthy performances, Clyde’s Kaitlyn Turner earned the top on our list. 

Aside from a sterling effort at the plate that saw the senior pitcher finish 9 of 15 with three home runs, nine RBIs and nine runs scored, she saved her top efforts for the circle.

There, she charted two perfect games, the first of which occurred in a 14-0 win over Lubbock High on Feb. 28. A day later, she delivered another in a 10-0 win over Brownwood. 

She struck out 23 batters in just 10 innings of work during the no-nos, both of which ended in the run rule. 

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BCP Baseball Position Rankings: Utility Players

After recognizing the Big Country’s top pitchers, catchers, infielders and outfielders, we wrap up our baseball position rankings series with the area’s multi-position standouts.

For the final installment in our five-part series, we take a look at the top utility players, ranking our top-six with others to watch in 2020.

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading through these lists and are as excited as we are that baseball season is underway.

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BCP Baseball Position Rankings: Outfielders

For Day 4 of our five-part baseball position rankings series, we focus our binoculars on the outfield grass.

After highlighting the Big Country’s top pitchers, catchers and infielders earlier this week, we now do the same with the area’s best outfielders, ranking our top 10 with others to watch in 2020.

We hope you enjoy our list.

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BCP Baseball Position Rankings: Infielders

After ranking  the top pitchers and catchers on the Big Country baseball scene the past two nights, we now turn our attention to the infield.

For the third installment in our five-part position rankings series, we list our top-10 infielders in the area with a list of others to watch in 2020.

We hope you enjoy reading through our rankings.

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BCP Baseball Position Rankings: Catchers

After opening our baseball position rankings series with the pitchers on Monday, it’s time to shift our attention to their battery mates.

For the second installment in our five-part series, we celebrate the Big Country’s top catchers, ranking our top 10 with a list of others to watch in 2020.

We hope you enjoy our list.

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BREAKING: Big Country FCA announces participants for 2020 All-Star Festival

The Big Country Fellowship of Christian Athletes announced the players selected to compete in the 2020 FCA All-Star Festival on Tuesday — a list that features 320 athletes from 71 Big Country and Concho Valley area high schools.

The Festival, which is comprised of all-star competitions in football, basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball and golf, is scheduled for June 7-13 at four different sites.

The coaches for the Festival, which were announced January, can be found here.

Continue reading for the complete list of the athletes selected to compete.

Continue reading “BREAKING: Big Country FCA announces participants for 2020 All-Star Festival”

EVAN REN: Big Country Preps Top 10 Stories for 2019

It’s never easy picking the top 10 stories of the year for the Big Country Preps coverage area. 

Stretching from Forsan in the west to Brock in the east and from San Saba in the south to Munday in the north, there are literally thousands of athletes producing countless stories to choose from. 

Pairing all of that down to just 10 examples forces one to leave out several notable options on a yearly basis. The upside of all this is that the area is never short on quality stories to reflect on. 

So as we say goodbye to the year 2019, we salute those local athletes and coaches who produced yet another memorable year for the entire area. 

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the top stories from last year, in descending order:

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BREAKING: UIL announces conference cutoffs for next two school years

The UIL announced the conference cutoffs for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years on Tuesday. Here are the cutoff figures and a list of where each school in the Big Country Preps coverage area will fall at the next district realignment.

An asterisk has been placed by every school that has changed divisions since the last alignment, with an arrow indicating which direction they’ve moved.

The UIL will announce the new districts for the next two athletic years during its biennial realignment on Feb. 3.

Continue reading “BREAKING: UIL announces conference cutoffs for next two school years”

BCP BOYS ATHLETE OF THE YEAR AND SUPER DOZEN: Yeager claims top spot

On the heels of announcing our first-ever Big Country Preps Girls Athlete of the Year, it’s now time to announce our first boys winner.

Again, our Athlete of the Year and subsequent “Super Dozen” represent the Big Country Athletes who contributed the most to their athletic programs — most often over a broad range of disciplines. 

So, at this time, Big Country Preps proudly announces its Boys Athlete of the Year: Kevin Yeager of De Leon. 

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BCP GIRLS ATHLETE OF THE YEAR AND SUPER DOZEN: Masonheimer takes top spot

An Athlete of the Year award for the Big Country has been a long time coming, and Big Country Preps is officially ending the wait. 

What better way to end our first school year than by honoring our top all-around athletes. By that, we mean those athletes who competed at a high level over a broad range of disciplines and had the biggest overall impact on their athletic programs (as nominated by area athletic directors). 

So without further ado, we proudly announce our first Big Country Preps Girls Athlete of the Year: Anna Masonheimer of Eula. 

From start to finish, Masonheimer was a key contributor to Eula’s athletic success during the 2018-19 school year, beginning with her helping the EHS cross country team reach the regional meet. 

She was the MVP of Eula’s district champion basketball team, earning all state honors from both the Texas Association of Basketball coaches and the Texas Girls Coaches Association. But she was just getting started at that point. 

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All-Big Country Preps Baseball Team: First-Team Roster

Here are our first-team selections for the inaugural All-Big Country Preps baseball team. For the rest of this year’s selections, click the links below.

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