By Justin Sampson (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Dora has been one of the most consistent baseball programs in the Ozarks over the last decade. The ability for first- and second-year players to perform above their age group has played a big factor in that success.
The 2018 Falcons were largely fueled by freshmen as they captured their fourth straight district championship and finished 19-7 after a one-run loss to Greenfield in sectionals.
“We’re sophomore- and freshman-heavy, but we’ve got several kids that have played for quite a while,” head coach Rick Luna said. “A lot of this sophomore class has put on 10 pounds or has grown three inches.”
Four Falcons earned All-State honors after the spring of 2018, with Kaleb Harris being the only member of that group out the door. Luna triplets Mason, Bryson, and Auston were the breakout stars of the program as they all garnered those accolades in their first high school campaigns.
Auston earned first team honors as an outfielder as he matched his brother, Bryson, with a team-high .438 batting average while driving in 19 runs on 28 hits. He also went 4-1 on the mound with a 3.70 ERA.
Mason, who did not participate in a 9-5 fall campaign due to an arm injury, expects to return as the ace of the staff. The second-team all-state honoree went 6-2 on the bump last spring with a 3.02 ERA and one save. He added 26 RBI at the plate and will also be back in the top of the lineup.
Bryson put up team-highs in hits (32) and stolen bases (31) while driving in 16 runs. He will bounce between the infield and catching when he isn’t the starting pitcher.
Freshman Colby Hoover will be an intriguing watch, already boasting a 6’4” frame that weighs close to 200 pounds. His fastball already lives in the mid-80s and, after also missing the fall season, will be an unseen challenge for hitters as he mans the middle of the rotation.
“I like what our pitching rotation will look like,” said Luna. “Looking at what we did in the fall and being able to add (Hoover and Mason Luna), who are two-hole and five-hole type of guys, I really like what we’ll be able to do with the lineup too.”
Lone senior J.J. Ryan should have increased roles as a pitcher and at the plate while bringing his speed back to the outfield. The same can be said for sophomore Isaac Haney, who will be charged with defending all over the field this spring.
Cousins Tyler Luna (junior) and Landon Luna (sophomore) also expect to contribute along with second-year sophomore Colby Collins.
On top of physical growth, the tenth grade talent has been aided by half a decade of travel baseball. Luna has coached many of these players in Perfect Game events in Texas, Florida, Georgia, and beyond. That experience is what gives the coach an even-keeled confidence in what the Falcons bring to the table yet again.
If health is on its side, Dora has the capability to be a familiar face deep in the postseason.
“That’s always been the goal. We have seven district titles and a state championship since 2006. We’ve always been right there. There’s not a need to put the pressure on them to get it done because it was the same case with last year’s bunch. We’ve got a good group coming behind these kids, too.”