Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : April 5, 2015

By Erik Walsh
Monitor Sports Editor
RICE–Eustace held off a late-inning Rice rally to preserve a 3-2 victory March 31 in the battle of the Bulldogs.
Eustace got on the scoreboard in the first inning with solid hitting and base running. With one out, Cory Strawn smacked a double to leftfield to get into scoring position. Next up was Hudson McHaffey, who was unable to collect a RBI after hitting a line drive to second base for the second out. With Gannon Kirkhart at the plate, Strawn saw an opportunity to run and took it, stealing third base. Kirkhart was able to get Strawn home three pitches later with a clean stroke to the outfield for a RBI double. The inning ended when Kelly Ashton lined out to second base. Eustace led 1-0.
Eustace was able to extend its lead in the third inning and score the runs needed to secure the victory. Juan Maltos got things going with a leadoff single. Strawn flied out to right field for the first out, but McHaffey responded with a single to advance Maltos to second base. Kirkhart was unable to continue his heroics from the first inning, popping up an infield fly to the first baseman for the second out. Ashton was able to get Maltos home by hitting a single to leftfield. The hit gave Eustace a 2-0 lead. James East got the final hit of the inning when he nailed a pitch to right field to score McHaffey. Eustace led 3-0.
Neither team scored any runs until Rice began its rally in the seventh inning. Eustace’s offense was fizzling, managing just two hits in the fourth through seventh innings combined. One bright spot in the lul was Eustace pitcher Rusty Rogers showing the ability to get out of jams without surrendering runs.
A close call came in fourth inning when Rogers allowed two hits, then loaded the bases with two out by walking a Rice batter. A lot was on the line with the bases loaded and Rogers was able to get his team out of the inning with no damage done to the scoreboard by forcing the next batter to line out to Maltos at shortstop.
Things really got interesting in the seventh inning. After Eustace batters went three and out in the top of the inning, Rogers came back to the mound to finish the game. It didn’t begin ideally, as he walked the first Rice batter he faced, putting a runner on first base. Rogers allowed a second consecutive man on base with a single to left field to put runners on first and second. Rogers allowed a another hit to the next Rice batter, but Cody Strawn made a nice outfield throw to third baseman James East to catch a runner advancing to third base for the first out of the inning.
The nice defensive play seemed to energize Rogers, who forced an infield fly on the next batter for the second out. Runners remained on first and second base. Rice scored its runs in the next at bat by belting a line drive to left field, scoring both runners. Eustace led 3-2. With two out and a runner on first, Rogers preserved the complete game when James snagged a line drive at third base to end the contest.
Rogers ended the game with 87 pitches in seven innings of work. He allowed eight hits and only two runs. He walked four and struck out four while claiming the win. Offensively, Maltos and East collected two hits each, while East and Kirkhart were credited with RBI’s.
Eustace’s plays next April 7 at home against Malakoff.



Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : April 2, 2015

Kemp baseball
By Erik Walsh
Monitor Sports Editor

KEMP–The Kemp Yellowjackets baseball team is looking to continue their success from last year under former Head Coach and current Athletic Director Brandon Hankins.

Head Baseball Coach Cameron Bankston was the first person Hankins hired after his promotion to AD last year. Now Bankston is entrusted to lead the program that Hankins helped turn around into a successful playoff contender. But nothing is ever easy.

It has always been tough to compete in 3A District 12 with the No. 5 state-ranked Palmer, last year’s District Champions, leading the pack. After UIL realignment the district got immeasurably tougher. Added to the mix is the current Texas State Champion Sunnyvale Raiders.

“We love playing against the top competition,” Bankston said.

So far this season Kemp’s record is 7-3. They have only played one district game, a 10-0 loss to the State Champion Raiders. The 10 run loss may look harsh, but Sunnyvale has been getting similar results all year.
Bankston describes his coaching style as “high energy,” and “challenging.”

“I’m a hard coach to play for,” Bankston admits. “I demand attention to detail and lots of effort from the players. They have taken well to it by learning every day and being up for a challenge. We have an very good group of seniors here.”

Bankston teaches the players to treat playing baseball today as a privilege. He asked the students “if tomorrow wasn’t promised, what would you give to play baseball today?”

The question is engeneered to motivate players to give it their all every day.

“I tell the players to not be afraid to be their best,” he said. “They can set their sights on being more than just the best player in Kemp or even the state of Texas.”

Bankston says he is thrilled to be the Head Coach at Kemp and thinks the environment is set up for success.
“Hankins helped get the baseball program going along in the right direction here,” he said. “Now I live down the street from him. He’s going to be in Kemp for a long time. He’s a great coach, AD and I love working for him.

Key seniors on the Kemp Yellowjackets are Jessie Hall, Hunter Scott, Calbert Hukil and Braxton Waters.



Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : March 26, 2015

team pic
By Erik Walsh
Monitor Sports Editor

MABANK–The Mabank Panthers baseball team is looking for some regularity. More than half of the games have been cancelled or rescheduled due to soaking baseball diamonds. Constant rains have turned fields all over East Texas sopping wet, forcing teams to move practice indoors and get more work in at the batting cages.
“This spring has been a huge mess,” Mabank Head Baseball Coach Lane Stahl said. “The field has been bombarded with water.”

The flood of fluids for the last month has done wonders for Cedar Creek Lake, but Stahl says its time to seal the floodgates and get to America’s pastime.

“We have canceled six or seven games already,” he said. “We haven’t had a practice on the field in three weeks or gotten any game-type reps on the field. We are rusty sometimes and it can show. It’s good that the lake is full, but we need to turn the water switch off until June before it starts raining again. Our sub-varsity teams have played only one game. We are trying to reschedule, but with fields underwater it’s tough.”
Stahl says the lack of field time has slowed the Panthers’ progress.

“It can take a few innings to knock the rust off,” he said. The kids have been resilient through it all. We got pumps and buckets to get the water off the field. It’s been tough not having the continuity of a normal practice regiment of hitting, fielding and pitching.”

According to Stahl, the only home game the Panthers played so far this season was on March 16. That game was the only time the Panthers were able to take the field in nearly a month. Stahl even questions the playability of the field that day.

“We really wanted to get out there and play baseball,” he said. “But the players sank with every step they took in the infield grass. Now even the outfield grass is high because we can’t get on it to mow.”
Stahl takes some comfort knowing other teams are working through the same struggles.
“Everyone is going through the same difficulties,” Stahl said. “We hope to finally get some games in this week when we play Crandall (March 25). We are going to try to get out on our home field. If we can’t play here, we will go to Crandall and flip-flop home sites.”

Leaders on this year’s Panthers baseball team include seniors Cody Thompson (pitcher), Ryan Henderson (pitcher), Colt Conway (center field) and Nate Henderson (right field, pitcher). Thompson was an undefeated (5-0) All-District pitcher last year. Mabank is still waiting for another All-District player to return to the line up. Junior catcher Ty Winkelvoss is recovering from an injury he sustained playing football.

“We’re not rushing Ty’s return behind the plate,” Stahl said. “He’s got another year of football and baseball remaining and we’re not going to do anything to put him in jeopardy, especially with wet fields.”
Despite Mabank’s solid upperclassman core, they will also field many young players this season.

Pearson Johanson returns to third base in his sophomore season. He was an All-Distict player as a freshman. Rounding out the starters are short stop Cory Florez, second basemen Trey Neighbors and Patyon Lee and first basemen Dylan Raburn and Tristan Mellorn. Chase Bailey and Dalton Penix will split time behind the plate while Winkelvoss recovers.

The Panthers have targets on their backs, considering they are the defending District Champions. Stahl, however, downplays the importance of last year’s accomplishments and redirects the team attention to this year.

“I try not to compare last year’s team to this one. This is my first year at Mabank and we need to focus on the now and move forward. They have had recent success, but each year is new and we need to earn our place all over again.”

Mabank was picked to finish third in the district 4A-13 this year behind Crandall and Athens.
Stahl coached college baseball for more than 20 years before coming to lead the Panthers. The Dallas/Fort Worth native was coaching a Division III college in Illinois when he realized he needed a change to make more time for family.

“I have always been on the road coaching or recruiting,” he said. “I have children in junior high and intermediate school and haven’t been able to watch them in any activities or sports. Being a high school coach opens up some of my time to be a dad.”

He also came to Mabank for the opportunity to shape young lives.

“High school coaches are in a unique position to be mentors,” he said. “It’s rewarding to see the students make improvements on the field, and in the class room and life. ”