By Amanda Perkins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
In 2019, the Houston Tigers won a district championship and ended their season in sectional play, finishing with a 16-10 record. They also placed second in the South Central Association. Now they’ve lost six who contributed to that success and had to forego their senior season.
“As a group, these seniors worked their tails off and set a great example of what it takes to be successful,” said head coach Brent Hall, who enters his 24th year at the helm of Houston baseball. “They were loyal to me as a coach and our program. They were selfless and put the team before themselves and embodied what we teach in our program.”
Sterling Jackson, first baseman and pitcher, is now on the roster at North Central Community College. He had a 2.21 ERA, 30 hits, 28 RBIs, and a .405 average in his junior season and earned all-state honors as DH. Infielder Jacob Koch earned 7 wins as ace on the mound and a 2.20 ERA, as well as 16 stolen bases. Connor Wilson, shortstop, also pitched with a 2.64 ERA and added 26 hits and 12 stolen bases. All three were all-conference and all-district selections.
Hunter Stilley, centerfielder, Robbie Mortenson, outfielder, and Devin Wallander, outfielder and DH, will also be missed.
But Hall’s team is still strong despite the loss of upperclassmen. “We have a good IQ for baseball and play more than most in our area in the summer,” he said.
Senior Alex Castleman will return to the mound and could be a “shutdown arm” for the team, as he throws in the mid to upper 80s. He was an all-conference, all-district standout in his sophomore season with a 1.9 ERA, .375 average, 30 hits, 27 RBIs, and 12 stolen bases. Alex is a versatile player and could cover nearly any position; he will bat in the middle of the order and will be a run producer for the Tigers.
Cody Allen is one of the smartest baseball minds in the program, per his coach. “He does a great job handling our pitchers behind the plate,” said Hall. The senior bats in the top half of the lineup and will transition to the mound this year. He also earned all-conference honors.
Trevor Mitchell is another senior who will be a versatile player for the Tigers; he will cover third base, pitch, and DH.
Wiley Sisco is the final returning letterman. The junior will play outfield and will pitch more this season, and could be one of the top arms per his coach. It’s also possible he could contribute as catcher. He is speedy, has a knack for getting on base in various ways, and has a .290 average.
The Tigers also bring in a host of talented newcomers. Rene Lathrom, senior, had a good summer in the outfield. “He will look to solidify our outfield and be a guy that can go get the ball from gap to gap out there,” said Hall.
Case Jones, junior, will be an asset, with good speed and potential to cover the outfield.
Sophomore Garyn Hall is Coach Hall’s son and has a good head for the game. He is quick, will play infield and pitch, and should bat in the top of the order.
Classmate Ryan Wolfe will compete for an outfield position and could also be in the catcher position. He’s athletic with a pop in his bat and could see time at the mound.
Sophomore Danny Venable is an infielder and pitcher and a fierce competitor. “I can see Danny playing a vital role in what we are doing this year,” said Hall.
Brody McNew is a sophomore transfer from Mountain Grove, an athletic and versatile player with a good baseball mind. “We are very excited to have him and look for him to be in our lineup somewhere,” said Hall.
Colten Stewart is a sophomore and a leftie, and a big target at first base that will be competing for that spot.
Sophomore Casey Merkling plays third base and could see some playing time later, as he is coming off an ankle injury.
“Freshman Wyatt Hughes is a talented freshman with a good arm, good glove, and a good stick,” said Hall. “He will be pushing people for playing time as the season develops.”
Freshman Aiden Kelly is a good outfielder and could also see time on the field.
“This will be an interesting year for us all,” said Coach Hall. “We graduated a lot but we have several pieces returning and a great sophomore class that should help us have a chance to get us to where we want to go. We didn’t get a chance to evaluate these sophomores last year in high school competition, so there are some unknowns, but we play a lot in the summer and have been working out for a while together, which will hopefully give us a chance to bridge the gap a little bit.”
The Tigers open their season at the Van Buren Wood Bat tourney March 19.