By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
2019 was an incredibly successful year for Dora baseball.
After capturing a ninth-straight conference championship and fifth-straight district title, the 23-3 Falcons reached the Class 1 quarterfinal round before falling to Cooter.
Head coach Rick Luna, the White River Conference Coach of the Year last season, believes his team lost its mental focus after a controversial ruling in the first inning negated a pair of Dora runs.
“The boys just never got their heads back up after that call,” Luna said. “We still had to make plays, and we didn’t make them. Hopefully, my guys learn from it and become more focused this season because of it.”
While the last year ended on a sour note for Dora, there is plenty of reason for optimism heading into this season.
The Falcons graduated a single senior in outfielder/pitcher J.J. Ryan.
An all-conference and all-district selection, Ryan hit .365 with seven RBIs and six stolen bases. He also posted a 7-0 record on the mound with an ERA of 1.75.
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“J.J. is one of the best I have ever had at reading the ball off the bat,” Luna said. “He was a very solid defender in the outfield.”
The Falcons must also replace sophomore outfielder Dylan Robertson, who moved out of the school district.
Dora will be led this season by triplets Bryson, Auston and Mason Luna.
The junior trio garnered all-state honors in each of the past two seasons.
Infielder Bryson Luna hit .507 last season with one home run, 18 RBIs and 35 stolen bases.
“Bryson is our motor in basketball and also the motor on the baseball field,” Coach Luna said. “He provides lots of leadership on and off the field.”
Outfielder and pitcher Auston Luna hit .485 for the Falcons with two home runs, 31 RBIs and 17 stolen bases. He also posted a 7-2-1 pitching record with a 2.85 ERA.
“Auston will be called upon again this year to pitch several innings for us,” Coach Luna said. “He is a very versatile player with lots of speed in the outfield and on the bases.”
Infielder and pitcher Mason Luna hit .456 with one home run, 26 RBIs and 28 stolen bases. On the mound, he added a 4-1-1 record with a 1.40 ERA.
“Mason is a smooth infielder with very fast hands,” Coach Luna said. “He will be our No. 1 on the hill and pitch in every big game we have.”
Dora’s additional returning starters include senior infielder Tyler Luna (.380 BA, 24 RBI), junior catcher Colby Collins (.306 BA, 15 RBI, 1 SB), sophomore pitcher and infielder Landon Luna (.333 BA, 4 RBI, 1-0, 3.62 ERA) and junior outfielder Dylan Martin (.295 BA, 8 RBI, 6 SB).
The Falcons will also have the services of returning junior Isaac Haney.
The Class 1 Player of the Year in basketball hit .383 as a freshman with 18 RBIs and 18 stolen bases.
“Isaac took his sophomore year off to focus on basketball, but now he’s back,” Coach Luna said. “He has great hands and can play anywhere on the field. Adding another solid athlete to this lineup helps us a lot from last season.”
In addition to its strong returning cast, Dora adds a quartet of varsity newcomers.
Hunter Ryan, Seth Luna, Evan Smith and Korey Murphy will all challenge for playing time this season.
While Dora’s new faces will need to develop quickly in order to mesh with the team, a season of fall baseball provided an early opportunity.
“We bring back eight guys from last year’s district championship team and added another piece to the equation with Isaac,” Coach Luna said. “I think having 18 games this fall really helped our young guys become adjusted to high school baseball before the main season starts.”
With the opportunity for another postseason run looming this season, the loaded Dora squad should be well-prepared for the challenge.
“All of my basketball guys are my baseball guys, as well,” Coach Luna said. “So the success they have had in basketball will hopefully roll over from the court to the field. We were only one game away from the final four last season, so I feel the guys will be very focused and determined to accomplish our goal.”
Dora opens its season Monday, March 23, at Summersville.