Dobie prepared for ups and downs
By Jason McDaniel
In the grand scheme it wasn't much. But for the Dobie Longhorns, who started the season 0-5, it meant the world at the time.
They finally got into the win column in emphatic fashion, whipping Northbrook 20-0 in five innings on the first day of the Pasadena tournament, and they're hoping it's the start of something big.
It felt wonderful," Dobie coach Miguel Torres said. It felt good to finally get off the schneid.
The guys were ecstatic, dumping water like it was a big deal, but after a while they were like Alright, this is the way we need to play. We know we can do it. Let's just go out there and start playing the game like we're supposed to and have fun out there.'"
As good as winning felt, the Longhorns weren't entirely unprepared for the losing. They knew it might be tough early with just three returning starters and a new coach in Torres, Roy Grant's assistant last year.
They went 16-11 and finished fourth in district last season, then forced a Game 3 in the bi-district playoffs before falling to 21-5A champ Channelview. But they lost their top two pitchers, Cody Priest and Daniel Sawyer.
Those were the two guys who we depended on and could give the ball to and know for a fact that they were going to give us the ball back at the end of the game," Torres said. That's how competitive they were.
I guess our mistake was that we didn't have to rely on other guys for pitching, and that's what we're having to do this year now."
Developing a new staff was Torres' top priority in his first offseason as head coach, and while a few pitchers have surfaced, the work is ongoing.
Seniors Blake Beynarts and Michael Medina entered the offseason as the top prospects, and both have had good innings, but it's been senior Austin Abbott taking the lead in the rotation so far.
Torres says the right-hander provides the leadership and maturity on the mound and in the classroom they needed. He has a great changeup and it showed in a tight 1-0 loss to Friendswood.
This past offseason he really committed, not just in the weight room and what we're doing with pitchers to try to develop them and make them stronger, but he's also done a good job in the classroom," Torres said.
The three position starters back are junior catcher Justin Eckols, senior centerfielder Joseph Gutierrez and senior shortstop Aris Adame, who recently had his own, individual win to celebrate.
After a brutal start at the plate, in which he went hitless the first four games, he got the best of a Katy Taylor pitcher. But he's so vital defensively, where he excels, he's a fixture in the lineup regardless.
Eckols is the leadoff who was around .500 in on-base percentage last year in that role, and Gutierrez is hitting .350 after his own slow offensive start. He hits third in the order.
(Gutierrez's) doing what he's supposed to in center field, making the nice catches, making all the plays and pretty much taking control of the outfield, being the captain," Torres said.
The team's only home run through six games was hit by their top newcomer, senior left fielder Deron Waines, a surprise addition to the roster after an impressive tryout. He hit it against Strake Jesuit.
Another newcomer, junior second baseman Marcelo Martinez, leads the team in RBIs early.
Our hitting is doing fine so far," Torres said. We started off slow. The rain we got at the beginning of the season set us back time-wise, and then pitching is always ahead of hitting at the beginning anyway.
Defensively we can do a little bit better. The one thing we need to step up on is the pitching, and I knew that would be our weak point going into the season, but I still feel the young guys who are pitching for us can do the job."
They just need more experience, and that's why the tournament season was so important for the Longhorns. They concluded that portion of the schedule in Round Rock this weekend.
Now it's time for district.
Dobie opens 22-5A play by hosting Pasadena Memorial at noon on Tuesday.
When it comes to district time we will be ready," Torres said. We will have our pitching staff set up how we want, so by our first game against Pasadena Memorial we'll have everything flowing, have the kinks worked out and start playing winning baseball."
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