Last year, the Jesuit Rangers baseball team completed one of the most historic seasons in Jesuit baseball history. They went the distance and took home the State title, the first UIL 6A baseball state championship win for the Rangers and only the second Jesuit state championship since the Rangers took home a soccer state championship in 2010. Their spectacular playoff run was not the only dazzling part of the Ranger’s season; Jesuit had a cumulative record of 36-8-2, while also going 13-1 in district play. The Rangers were great when playing home and away, and they beat their opponents by close to 7 runs per game. Due to the hard work and the leadership of both the coaching staff and the veteran players, Jesuit was able to complete the impossible and this season they are ready to defend their title.
The Varsity squad will be losing a fantastic senior class, a class made up of Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year winner Kyler Muller ‘16, who was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in last year’s MLB draft, along with 4 other seniors who committed to playing baseball at the collegiate level. However, this year’s team will be retaining key veterans, some of which have already committed to playing at the college level. Seniors Jacob Palisch, JT Mix, and JJ Montenegro have all committed to playing baseball in college, and they are accompanied by an enormous senior class. The senior pitching staff consists of Montenegro, Palisch, Casey Snelson ’17, Heath Vankirk ’17, Wyatt Hasson ’17 and Miles Okamoto ‘17. The senior infielders are John Guzman, Jake Ryan, Michael Schoettmer, Will Guzman, and Bobby Hillsley. Lastly, the senior class will have Alex Lengyel and Pete Panko manning the outfield.
While there may be many veteran seniors returning to the team for the Rangers, a large amount of younger players moving up from the JV squad shows how young this team is. This year’s varsity lineup will feature 5 juniors, Maccoy Lopez ‘18, Tyler Murrah ‘18, Peter Delkus ‘18, Paul Gramling ‘18, and Chris Irby ‘18. The Rangers will also have 4 young sophomores a part of varsity, Jaden Woodsen ‘19, Julian Colombo ‘19, Caden Carlson ‘19, and Garrett Reuben ‘19.
Looking ahead at this year’s schedule, Jesuit will participate in the Austin Baseball Tournament starting February 23rd, 2017 with the first pitch happening at 4:45 pm. Next, the Rangers will host the Jesuit Dallas Baseball Classic beginning on March 2nd, 2017 and then they will play in the Frisco Tournament starting on March 9th, 2017. All of these tournaments will occur before district play officially begins on March 14th, 2017, where they will face in order: Coppell, Richardson, Skyline, JJ Pearce, Lake Highlands, WT White, and Berkner.
Junior utility player Maccoy Lopez “believe[s] our team chemistry and our batting order are our strongest aspects of this year.” He elaborated by saying that he thinks “the younger guys will step up in the big games. And the team chemistry is great and that is what makes us stand out.”
The Roundup also spoke with pitcher Miles Okamoto ‘17 who discussed the team’s preseason boot camp and the growing team chemistry. “Mark Ready won the boot camp this year. Boot camp is one of the biggest factors of team chemistry for the team, not only for each level but within the whole organization. By the time we make it through the 6 or so weeks of boot camp as a team, we build up that trust and support that we can carry with us to the season.” Okamoto shared the same sentiments as Lopez, emphasizing the importance of the younger guys in the rotation. Okamoto commented on the topic, saying, “Obviously when you lose a guy liked Kyle Muller, there will be a void to fill both in the lineup and the rotation. At the same time, we do have a good balance of returning guys and younger guys that can help us win games. The sophomores bring a lot to the table.”
Okamoto continued by discussing the different aspects of the team, and what they bring to the table. He started by praising the pitching staff where “we will have three guys with experience starting in the playoffs and a solid staff behind them.” Next, Okamoto said that the Ranger’s batting order is strong and “a well-balanced lineup. So even though we might not hit as many home runs, we will still have a solid attack.” He concluded by talking about the team’s defense, a crucial aspect to any championship team. “As a pitcher, I trust every one of my teammates to make plays behind me, so all in all, we should have a good balance of strengths in each phase of the game.”
So, will the Rangers be able to defend their State Championship crown? It seems that with their great coaching staff, and an all-around balanced team, Jesuit is poised to make another deep postseason run.
Follow The Roundup for all 2017 baseball coverage as the season gets underway!