GARY STALLARD/AC Athletics
For the fans who attend the Angelina College baseball team’s home opener on Monday – and also for those who come to Wednesday’s home doubleheader – there’s something they may need to know:
Bring a pencil. The lineups they witness in one game may change drastically by the next.
The 2018 Roadrunners are stocked all the way throughout the roster, with a number of players ready and able to step into different roles.
Having so many options is the reason head coach Jeff Livin, heading into his 21st season as the Roadrunners’ skipper, is looking forward to needing plenty of pencils when making out his game-to-game lineups.
“I think the overall depth of the team is certainly going to be our strength this year,” Livin said earlier this week. “There’s solid depth at every position, and we’ll have the luxury of moving guys around where we need them the most.”
In 2017, the Roadrunners set several marks offensively, including Jacob Finke’s single-season home run record of 17. This year, according to Livin, the results will be similar although the approach may differ.
“I don’t think we’re going to have the power we had, but I think we’re a more dangerous offensive team,” Livin said. “It seems like the guys were having more competitive at-bats during the fall. I think 1-9 in the lineup, we should be good. Our run production should be the same or better. It’s just going to come in a different fashion.”
One big bat returning to the lineup is Garrett Kochakian, who blasted several majestic shots at Roadrunner field last season.
There will also be some different faces around the infield and outfield. The ‘Runners in 2017 were fortunate to have a solid core up the middle, with Division I signees Tony Lima (second base) and Nathan Miranda (shortstop) serving as the anchors. For now, Livin said a youth movement is unfolding, so it’s hard to write those positions in ink.
“There’s definitely room for competition in the middle,” Livin said. “Last year, Tony (Lima) and Nathan (Miranda) were solid, and they’re tough to replace. But I remember Nate dealing with some inconsistencies at this time last season, and he went on to have a phenomenal year at shortstop.
“We’ll be young, and we’ll make some young mistakes, but I like the way we’re going about our business every day.”
The rest of the defensive spots also are stacked at every position, meaning Livin can go with the hot bat when it’s time to make game decisions. Livin mentioned centerfielder Sam Haley and Tanner Sembera – who arrived as a pitcher but is showing a “middle-of-the-lineup bat” – as two players worth noting. Alec Paz spent 2017 battling various injuries but has “really been swinging the bat and making a lot of noise.” Euro Diaz had a strong fall season and will spend plenty of time in left field. Sean Bergeron, who’s listed as a freshman after injuries forced him to redshirt in ’17, is another player Livin believes will make big contributions to the new squad. Bergeron announced his arrival in the fall with a couple of walk-off homers.
“Sean will be a DH/first base/pitcher for us,” Livin said. “He’s really swinging the bat with some authority.”
Also returning is sophomore Christian Leonard, a sweet-swinging lefty who showed a quick bat in his freshman season.
“Christian in the fall was working on doing what he thought he should do, which was hit with more power, and I don’t think that’s his game to go looking for that,” Livin said. “I think the power’s in there. He’s got good, quick hands with the bat, and he’s worked hard to hit more consistently. He’s also shown a ton of improvement defensively.”
Other players vying for playing time include Dylan Rivers, Hayden Baker, Grant Jackman, Coy McLarty, Nic Garza, Drake Pierson, Alex Ashby, Brett Mugavero, Hayden Evans and Dylan Murphy.
Another big change in ’18 will be the stable of catchers. The 2017 Roadrunners featured several players highly capable of handling the chores behind the plate. This season, despite the new faces, Livin said he feels confident in the guys behind the masks.
“We’re young there,” Livin acknowledged. “We’ve got two freshmen and a sophomore transfer. Garrett Boes is the transfer. He’s a switch hitter who shows a lot of pop offensively. Sam Gotlieb and Dillon Nesbit are our two freshmen, and they’ll see time behind the plate as well. They’ve all looked good back there.”
Finally, there’s the all-important pitching staff. Depth in both the starting rotation and the relief corps means no single pitcher will have to carry the load.
“Our pitching staff looks a lot stronger than last year,” Livin said. “Not that we have those horses who carry a ton of innings, but I think we’re really going to stay competitive in every game. I think we’ll be a lot more consistent.”
Livin will have at his disposal returning pitchers such as Jarod Sprinkle, Jesse Cravy, Garrett Herrmann, Clayton Hill, Jeremy Rodriguez, Kyle Allen and Nick Bowman.
Those are known commodities, but Livin said he likes what he’s seeing from the up-and-comers as well.
“The youngsters like Lance Lusk and Bergeron are going to figure big in our equation,” Livin said. “We have a freshman from Austin, Jacob Mead, who throws the ball very well, and he’s got some plus off-speed stuff.”
Others expected to see the mound include Huntington freshman Chandler Reece – “he’s flashed some good innings for us so far” – along with Louisiana Tech transfer J.T. Migues, whose arm strength has convinced Livin has the potential to make Migues “a dominant pitcher.” Taylor Meaux, Ty Hoecker, Hagan Hartman round out the overall rotation.
By the time the conference portion of the season rolls around in March, Livin and assistant coach Adam Massiatte will have had time to see their Roadrunners in game situations. Typically, the first month serves as a way of narrowing the lineups down to the players who have established their abilities to perform.
But if 2018 shakes out the way Livin predicts, there will still no need to write any lineup in ink. Having that much throughout the roster ensures the coaching staff will never have an opportunity to copy and paste.
“We like the depth we have,” Livin said. “It gives us a lot of options. It’s a good feeling to have.
“I was sitting here working on lineups for the first couple of series. We’re not going to go deep in the pitch counts in the beginning. You start thinking about when you’re planning to use which guy, and you see how many options we have, and there’s a lot to feel good about.”
The Roadrunners take on No. 6 McLennan College in a Monday doubleheader starting at 2 p.m. at Roadrunner Field. On Wednesday, AC will host Mountain View College. That doubleheader also starts at 2 p.m.
The e-mail address for AC’s Sports Information Director is firstname.lastname@example.org.