Tarleton Baseball Season Preview

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STEPHENVILLE – The Tarleton baseball team is geared up for its second season at the NCAA Division I level in the Western Athletic Conference.

The Texans open the season at home in Stephenville as they take on the UTSA Roadrunners on the new turf and under the new lights, Feb. 18-20. Season tickets are on sale at TarletonSports.com/Tickets. Individual game tickets can be purchased there as well.

Tarleton finished its inaugural D1 season with a 20-35 overall record and a 13-23 record in WAC play. The season was highlighted by wins over Dallas Baptist, Missouri State, UTRGV and New Mexico State. The Texans also grabbed wins over future WAC opponents Lamar and Abilene Christian. Notable series wins included Seattle U and Utah Valley.

Although the Texans are participating in the same conference, they play only three WAC teams that they took on last year (UTRGV, Lamar, ACU). This season brings new challenges to the table as Tarleton competes in the Southwest division of the WAC which is home to all Texas universities.

The Texans will take on Sam Houston, UTRGV, Abilene Christian, Stephen F. Austin and Lamar in a home and away series for a total of 30 conference games. Notable non-conference Power Five games include vs. Washington State (March 2), at Missouri (March 4-6), at Texas A&M (March 8), at Baylor (May 3), and at TCU (May 17).

The Tarleton roster is comprised of 22 returners and 18 newcomers. To break it down further, there are 15 NCAA Division I transfers, 13 junior college transfers, and 12 players that came to Tarleton out of high school. The roster is nearly evenly split with 21 underclassmen (11 freshmen, 10 sophomores) and 19 upperclassmen (nine seniors, 10 juniors).

“Last year it was about seeing what that level of ball looked like and getting a feel for where we stand,” said head coach Aaron Meade. “Now going into it, we know what it takes to win at this level. We have some returners that were really productive players for us last year and a really talented group of young players that came in.”

The Hurlers

Tarleton returns its top two pitchers in terms of innings pitched from the 2021 season in junior Bryce Hackett and graduate student Luke Baley. Hackett figures to be a mainstay in the weekend rotation after starting 13 games in his first season of Division I baseball. He had a 56:27 strikeout-walk ratio throwing 68 innings. The Weatherford College transfer was recognized by D1Baseball.com as the No. 18 prospect for the 2022 MLB draft in the WAC.

Baley led the Texans in strikeouts with 66. He can be thrown in any situation. He will likely see most of his time out of the pen but can easily have his innings extended. Another reliever that saw plenty of action in 2021 was sophomore Zach Poe who led the squad in appearances with 26. He finished with a 3-1 record, 4.35 ERA, and held opposing batters to a .269 batting average.

The transfer portal was kind to the Texans as they have multiple pitchers with Division I experience entering the program. Graduate student Riley Boyd pitched at Western Kentucky for two seasons, making three starts. Junior LHP Isiah Campa spent the last two seasons at New Mexico where he appeared in 15 games and boasted a 4-2 record in 26.2 innings of work. He ended his career with the Lobos with 27 strikeouts.

A mix of veteran and newcomer arms is something the Texans will deploy. Freshmen RHP Kyler Mentzel and LHP Aiden Adams have been productive in practice and could see early opportunities. Mentzel finished the fall world series at Tarleton with the top fastball velocity on the team coming in at 95.5 mph. He and Adams could see themselves sliding into starting spots.

Zane Badmaev is healthy following the 2021 season where he made two appearances. The 6-8, 265-pound pitcher is someone who can be very effective late in games out of the pen. He and Zach Gagnon have set themselves up to throw a lot out of the bullpen, with both having big arms. Freshman Jake Burcham can play in the infield but will see most of his time as a freshman as an arm out of the bullpen. Matthew Hickey, who pitched for three seasons at Weatherford College, will make an immediate impact late in games out of the pen.

The Bats and Gloves

The Texans return some firepower on the offensive side and steady gloves in the field. The returning All-WAC honorable mention selections from 2021 were all position players. The senior trio of Bryan Aguilar, London Green, and Kemuel Thomas-Rivera are back armed with a full season of D1 experience.

Green started all 54 games last season in right field and will move and take over center field duties this season. The switch-hitter hit .313, led the team with 60 hits and 18 doubles, and finished third in the WAC with 14 stolen bases. Aguilar will start the season at shortstop. He started 39 games a season ago and finished with a .384 on-base percentage. Some of his best performances came against the most talented teams on the schedule. He finished with three hits and four RBI vs. TCU and had two hits and an RBI in a game vs. Grand Canyon.

Thomas-Rivera can bounce between second base and left field. He started 44 games a season ago, battling through some injuries on the way to knocking 45 hits, nine home runs and 37 RBI. Fully healthy now, he has the potential to be one of the best utility players in the conference.

Senior Corey Young can see time at first or second base. He has also played shortstop in the past but figures to begin the season at first. Young, Jake Escalon and Kade Turnage will all play a part there. Escalon is a converted catcher who worked hard in the offseason to get in shape and has a presence at the plate. Turnage is the one player at first with game experience playing the position. His offensive game has developed nicely. He started 13 games a season ago and finished with 14 hits.

At the other corner, Central Arkansas graduate transfer Taylor Daniell and senior Colby Seltzer are both vying for a starting spot. Both players have experience at the Division I level. Daniell hit in the cleanup spot for the Bears at times last season, starting 24 games. He hit .294 with 25 hits and a .412 slugging percentage. Seltzer started 38 games for the Texans and put together 27 hits, 19 walks and 32 RBI. Both have reliable gloves and will see game action.

Junior Fort Scott CC transfer Carter Dobrinski is a true utility player. He will mix between designated hitter, outfield and first base. He brings a polished bat to Stephenville after hitting .411 with an .853 slugging percentage in the 2021 season at Fort Scott.

Two newcomers who have flashed potential in the middle of the field are freshman Karson Krowka and junior Dylan Kurahashi-Choy Foo. They can both play at second or shortstop. As a true freshman, Krowka can help right away. He lettered four years at Rockwall-Heath HS where they won the 2021 Texas 6A state championship. Choy Foo is a proven bat. In 2021 at Fort Scott CC, he connected on 90 hits, had 58 RBI and hit .446 with a .693 slugging percentage.

The Texans have quality options at the catcher position. Spencer Bloom and Cody Vannoy both return with a lot of experience for the Texans as they started 43 games combined last season. Sophomore Kansas State transfer Mason Crews has Power Five experience behind the plate where he appeared in 16 games over three seasons with the Wildcats. Jaime Perez is an extremely talented true freshman out of Edinburg, Texas. He has all the tools and intangibles you look for in a young catcher.

In the corner outfield spots, senior Reed Hamilton, sophomores Colby Feris and Alec Williams, and freshman Trace Morrison have all shown promise.

Hamilton, a senior team captain, appeared in 10 games last season. He is considered one of the hardest workers on the team and that should translate to more opportunities in the upcoming season. Feris appeared in 30 games last season. He had an on-base percentage of .377 to go with 19 hits and 11 RBI. He is an athletic option with a high motor.

Williams and Morrison are a pair of left-handed hitters that flashed a lot in the fall despite being newcomers. Williams was the 2021 NJCAA D3 Defensive Player of the Year at Tyler JC. He possesses speed and a tremendous arm. Morrison is a Stephenville native and was a part of Stephenville High’s first ever state tournament appearance in 2021. He was All-State as a shortstop, but has transitioned to the outfield with few hiccups.

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