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The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

New, familiar faces to shape baseball roster

Junior+pitcher+Levi+Wells+%2825%29+pitches+the+ball+against+Northwestern+University+on+Friday%2C+Feb.+17%2C+2023%2C+at+Bobcat+Ballpark.

Junior pitcher Levi Wells (25) pitches the ball against Northwestern University on Friday, Feb. 17, 2023, at Bobcat Ballpark.

It’s no secret that Bobcat baseball has set a new standard for itself through last season’s deep playoff run to the Stanford Regional. Although the run ended short, the team managed to bring Texas State and its community to the national spotlight for the first time in school history.

The 2022 Texas State baseball team produced the best record in program history, largely in part to the contributions of that year’s seniors.

Longtime lineup roster staples, however, like outfielders John Wuthrich and Isaiah Ortega-Jones, infielders Wesley Faison and Cameron Gibbons and reliever Trevis Sundgren have since graduated.
Dalton Shuffield and Tristan Stivors left the team via the 2022 MLB Draft. Both were drafted by AL Central teams the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox, respectively.

This year, familiar faces look to carry more of the load that was left by the graduates, and players who sparingly saw the field last year will get an increased opportunity in the new season.

Sophomore first baseman Daylan Pena will look to build on a respectable freshman season that saw him get consistent playing time as either designated hitter or first baseman. In his freshman year, Pena hit seven home runs, including a grand slam against the rival Texas Longhorns in the highest-attended baseball game in Texas State history.

Pena gave glimpses of raw power last season, but with only seven home runs to his name in 2022 and the eight-best slugging percentage on the team, head coach Steve Trout will need Pena to translate that raw power into game power in order to fill the holes left by last year’s graduates.

Junior infielder and Grayson College transfer Davis Powell will be Trout’s guy to fill in the big shoes of Shuffield at shortstop. In three years at Grayson College, Powell never hit below a .320 batting average. During baseball’s fall scrimmages, Powell led the Bobcats with a .444 batting average.

Former Bobcats Justin Thompson and Cameron Gibbons held down third and second base last season, and now the positions will be left up to a combination of junior infielder Alex Gonzales, sophomore infielder Ryder Hernandez, freshman infielder Chase Mora and sophomore infielder Ryan Leary.

Ryder Hernandez batted .444 with one home run, one double and four RBIs in the fall and was named Offensive MVP of the Fall World Series.

“I’d like to keep him a secret,” senior outfielder Jose Gonzalez said. “I’m excited to see what he does when he gets his chance.”

Trout said that the second and third base positional battle will be about who gets hot early that gets the most chances.

“We have some options out there to figure out the plans. Those guys can play defense and hit,” Trout said.

In the outfield, Gonzalez tied former teammate Shuffield with 13 home runs in 2022, ranking second on the team behind the graduated Wuthrich who hit 14. In the Stanford Regional, Gonzalez was named to the All-Region team after he hit three home runs in the series.

Gonzalez is the top returning bat for the Bobcats and will have left field locked down.

Alongside Gonzalez in center field, senior Ben McClain will slot into regular playing in the outfield. McClain had a .418 on-base percentage to go along with five steals in 2022, and as a veteran presence in the lineup, he’ll likely be seen at the top of the order.

Much like third and second base, the last remaining outfield spot, right field, will be left up to a combination of younger players. Sophomore outfielder Kyle Atkinson, sophomore two-way player Carson Keithly, freshman Coldon Kiser, junior and Weatherford College transfer Kameron Weil and freshman Damien Whitfield will all have the opportunity for the starting nod, and much like the infield, it will be about who gets hot early.

“This gives us depth all over the press in case of injury or need to move guys around. We have a lot of different options, and it is just trying to figure it out as fast as we can,” Trout said.

Atkinson was primarily used as a pinch runner in 2022 and totaled six at-bats and two hits.

Keithly pitched 18 innings last year, but still has the capabilities to play as an outfielder. In a game against the Troy Trojans, he got his lone plate appearances of the season, going 2-for-3 with a double.

Kiser and Whitfield are both freshmen who have decorated high school careers.

Weil is a transfer from Weatherford College. Along with a .355 average at Weatherford in 2022, he stole 17-for-20 bases, making him a defensive threat in the outfield.

Stivors, the nation’s saves leader in 2022, was drafted into the Chicago White Sox organization in the 2022 MLB Draft and was the most frequently used Bobcat out of the bullpen with 35 appearances. Senior pitcher Tristan Dixon totaled 27 appearances out of the bullpen in 2022, which was second behind Stivors, and will likely be the next man up for Trout to use as a bullpen workhorse.

Although Dixon has no collegiate saves under his belt, his 2.98 ERA and 58.1 innings pitched in 2022 signal a trust between him and Trout and a more important role to be played in the 2023 bullpen.

Trout will be left without his go-to closer this year, but he feels that his bullpen could be even deeper this year despite that.

“This might be a deeper staff through the entire rotation and down to the bullpen,” Trout said. “Our job as a coaching staff is to figure out… what roles help us win baseball games.”

Texas State had all members of its starting rotation return for another season and it is likely Trout will run out a similar rotation to last season.

Not only could junior pitcher Levi Wells be Texas State’s best-starting pitcher, but he also saw his name shoot up MLB draft boards after his regular season and playoff performance last year.

After he put up a 3.07 ERA in 91 innings while throwing 86 strikeouts in 2022, Wells currently sits ranked 49 on mlb.com’s 2023 MLB Draft prospect rankings. He will be the Friday starter for the Bobcats.

Senior pitcher Zeke Wood is returning for his third year as a Bobcat. Last year saw him improve his strikeout numbers, throwing 103 strikeouts in 88 innings. With the emergence of Wells as a Friday night starter, Wood will start Saturdays for Texas State.

As one of the older players in the rotation, Wood said he’s taking on a bigger leadership role this season,

“This year I’ve really matured a lot more,” Wood said.

Junior pitcher Tony Robie pitched in 19 games last year, including 11 starts. In 2022, Robie had a 5.05 ERA in 57 innings to go along with 48 strikeouts and 28 walks. For Trout, Robie could be an option as a Sunday starter, but Robie could also see action out of the bullpen.

Senior Nathan Medrano, a transfer from Houston, and junior Jack Stroud, a transfer from Weatherford College, are in the mix for Sunday starts as well.

Baseball scored 56 runs in its opening series, the most in program history for a three-game series, en route to a weekend sweep of Northwestern University. The Bobcats will host Oral Roberts in a three-game series beginning at 6 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 24 at Bobcat Ballpark.

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