Around the area
Feb. 18, 2017 at 11:41 p.m.
Updated Feb. 18, 2017 at 10:27 p.m.
Weimar coach Lee Mueller wasn't completely surprised when the Wildcats were ranked No. 1 in the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association's preseason Class 2A poll.
The Wildcats return seven starters from last year's area playoff team, including all-state players Tanner Sembera and Brody Gall.
But Mueller knows there are no guarantees, and he speaks from experience.
Mueller was a member of Weimar's 1996 and 1997 state championship teams.
"We have to do the little things right," he said. "We have to put the ball in play, play good defense and throw strikes, especially with the (UIL's) new pitch count."
The Wildcats' first order of business will be attempting to get out of District 28-2A, which includes two-time defending state champion Flatonia.
"This district will be a meat grinder," Mueller said.
Flatonia returns five players from last year's state championship team, including all-state pitchers/infielders Easton Migl and Kaddin Mikulik.
The Bulldogs will be under the direction of Bryan Zimmerman, who was an assistant last season and was promoted to head coach when Shawn Bruns resigned to become the softball coach.
"The steps for a three-peat," Zimmerman said, "are getting through the tough district competition, staying healthy with pitching and the pitch count, senior leadership, and some guys to step up and fill the shoes of past graduates."
Shiner will have some rebuilding to do this season, but returns pitcher Ty Boedeker and catcher Brandon Cerny.
Shiner coach Daniel Boedeker is in rare company having won a state baseball title as a player, assistant coach and head coach. He did all three with the Comanches.
Ganado also hopes to make a run under new head coach Mike Ridings, who formerly coached at Victoria High and Victoria Memorial.
The four teams emerging from the playoffs will have to get through a region that includes No. 2 Thorndale, No. 3 Refugio, No. 10 Evadale, Center Point and Dallardsville Big Sandy.
"That's when you hope experience and leadership fall into place," Mueller said.
Hallettsville hasn't disappeared since winning the 2013 state championship.
The Brahmas have been to the playoffs the last three seasons, and have put themselves in position to make another title run.
Hallettsville enters the season ranked No. 5 in the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association's Class 3A preseason poll.
Coach Shorty Cook welcomes back nine players who started at one time during last season, including district MVP Colton Starns and first-team selections Kyle Motal, Logan Holik, Dalton Dieringer and Rhett Trlicek.
"We are looking forward to see what we can get accomplished this season," Cook said. "The nucleus is there to have a really good season, but we must stay healthy and continue to work hard every day. We will be moving into a bigger district with teams that have some great baseball tradition and great coaches."
The Brahmas will play in District 27-3A, which includes Yoakum, Luling, Marion, Nixon-Smiley, Schulenburg, Stockdale and Universal City Randolph.
Yoakum will be under the direction of first-year coach Karl Saenz, a Cuero graduate who formerly coached at Schulenburg and Bloomington last season.
El Campo is two years removed from advancing to the state tournament and has some impact players returning this season.
The Ricebirds have seven starters back, including catcher Brock Brandl, who has signed with Wharton County Junior College, pitcher Dawson Mach, and first baseman Reed Spenrath.
"Brandl is a tough out and can play anywhere on the field," said El Campo coach Russell Krenek. "Mach will lead our pitching staff and hit in the heart of the lineup. Spenrath is an offensive threat. He, too, will enter our pitching rotation."
Depth shouldn't be a problem for the Ricebirds, who will have experience at almost every position.
Realignment shifted Cuero and Beeville into District 30-4A with Plesanton, Poteet and Somerset.
The Gobblers return pitchers Garrett Veit and Cole Payne.
Shortstop/pitcher Justin Gomez is back for the Trojans.
Mike Shimek has won 571 games since taking over as St. Joseph's head baseball coach in 1981.
But last season was the most difficult in his career with the Flyers, who won six games and had a streak of 14 straight playoff appearances come to an end.
Shimek will look to seven seniors to lead the way for a squad that could include eight freshmen.
"The expectation this season," Shimek said, "is to have the seniors provide the leadership for our younger ballplayers that will result in a competitive team."
Compiled by Mike Forman