By Charles Dee
Hays Rebel baseball coach, David Null, after directing his Rebs to back-to-back regional semi-final appearances, will look to a predominately new cast to match the success of his first two Rebel campaigns.
The Rebs’ sterling defense of the past two seasons, featuring a pair of three-year starters and five other two-year guys, returns junior centerfielder Mike Gonzalez, senior Athen Shultz and senior shortstop David Riojas as the only three with significant playing time. The cupboard, however, is not bare. As Null explained, the Rebels’ perennially successful JV program offers plenty of reason for optimism as “the next men up” seek to continue the Rebel baseball tradition. In the infield, power hitting junior, Tyler Wilson, will most likely take over at second, senior letterman Reid Johnson will man first and a trio of prospects, transfer Nick Luella, junior Bryce Sims and junior Brandon Hunter will battle for the hot corner. Sophomore, Cole Irby and junior, Ryan Manley will handle the catching chores and a foursome of speedsters, Gonzalez, Shultz, senior Trevor McCulley and junior, Josh Barnett, will roam the outfield.
In contrast to an inexperienced defense, the Rebels will rely on a pair of tested and experienced pitchers to anchor the mound staff. In 2014 Gonzalez and senior, Trey Dickerson, combined for 11 wins, over 100 innings and boasted ERAs of 1.01 and 1.61 respectively. To bolster this pair, big, strong armed, junior Matt Olson could be an effective third starter and a force as a closer. Both Riojas and Shultz were efficient in their relief performances from last year and will be counted on for innings this year.
The Rebs will face tough district play in 2015 in order to continue their playoff streak, now stretching back to 2006. Null points to Lake Travis, Bowie, Austin High, Westlake and Anderson as district opponents that have similar playoff experience and believes a real battle is looming for the four available spots. Coach Null qualified that thought with a parting comment, “although district will be a big challenge, we have played in a really tough district the last two years, with all four teams progressing to the semis and a district representative in the regional finals. We are seasoned by the competitive level and the 6A jump may not be as big a step as people think”.
The Rebels will open regular season play February 23 on the road at Dripping Springs. Let’s play ball.