There’s not many familiar faces on Texas A&M University-Texarkana’s baseball roster in 2019.
Veteran head coach Steve Jones has only one starter back from his 2018 squad that finished third in the Red River Athletic Conference. The Eagles finished 35-19 overall, the best record (percentage wise) in the RRAC.
“I’ve been telling people that we’ll probably go through some early growing pains,” said Jones. “We had our first graduating class last spring. A lot of our players the first three years were transfers and some graduated early.
“Right now it remains to be seen how we’re going to pitch. From a position standpoint we’ve got a chance to be pretty good. We’ve got a lot of depth, but it’s going to take some time to find out who can play, and who can’t. If we have injuries like last season, we have the depth to overcome it. When all is said and done I think we’ll be fine.”
McKee is Eagles’ only returning starter
Middle infielder Keone McKee is the lone returning starter. He was an all-conference selection in 2018 after hitting .383 in 43 games.
Jones got a pleasant surprise when former Pleasant Grove standout Joe Pearlman returned this year after sustaining a serious ankle injury. He was the team’s leading hitter (.391) when he was injured in his 25th game.
First baseman Bryce Beck of Bellevue, Wa., and former Liberty-Eylau player L.T. Hawkins are good bets for the Eagles’ starting lineup. Beck, Hawkins and junior Cal Hodgins could be long-ball threats. Hawkins hit .340 in 30 games last season.
“Those guys are capable of hitting some home runs, but for the most part you’ll see us hitting a lot of doubles and running the bases,” said Jones. “Hawkins was probably our most consistent hitter in the fall, and should be in the middle of our lineup. Hopefully he’ll continue to hit the ball well.”
Newcomers who could attract attention early include catcher Angel Mauricio of Oxnard, Ca., Isaac D’Agostino of Amarillo, Tx., and outfielder Marquise Glen, who transferred to Texarkana from Eastern New Mexico. Glen will be filling the shoes of centerfielder Cole Beckham, the school’s home run king who is now attending law school at the University of Arkansas.
Eagles have 15 pitchers on the roster
The Eagles have a pitching staff that numbers 15. Jones feels junior Jared Davis of Houston should be the team’s No. 1. He’s also looking at moving senior Caleb Baker from the bullpen to starter. Baker was 2-1 with eight saves and a 3.67 ERA last season.
Junior Sam Wells (6-7, 240) transferred in from Northern California. The big right-hander is another candidate to be a starter.
Jones predicts LSU-Shreveport and LSU-Alexandria will once again be the teams to beat in the RRAC. Shreveport won the regular season title, while Alexandria captured the postseason tournament.
A&M-Texarkana also has a new pitching coach this season with Frank Bowne joining Jones’ staff, which also includes Jonathan Stavinoha, Kelly Morton and graduate assistant Bronson Butcher.
The Eagles open their season at home Feb. 1-2 with two doubleheaders against Lindenwood University-Belleville.
“We’re going to Oklahoma City (Feb. 15-17) to play Oklahoma City University, which has been in the last couple of World Series,” said Jones. “We’ll also play Bellevue, which has been in two of the last three World Series, and Central Methodist, which is always ranked in the top fifteen. That will be our wakeup call. We’ll get a gage of how good we are in Oklahoma City.”