Pirate baseball looks to move up

Last season, despite finishing with a losing record (13-19), the Granbury Pirates baseball team pushed perennial power Waco Midway to three games in their bidistrict playoff series.

And with six returning starters back, coach Brad Hart is optimistic about his team’s chances for another bidistrict appearance.

“We have made it our goal to make a run at the top of the district instead of settling for the fourth seed going into the playoffs,” said Hart.

Returning starters for the Pirates are junior shortstop/pitcher Nathan Hickey (2-0, 3.05 ERA), sophomore outfielder/pitcher Payton Rhodes (.292 average, 8 RBIs), senior third baseman Brady Retz, senior centerfielder/pitcher Miles Wagner (4 doubles, 13 RBIs), senior first baseman/pitcher Joe Bullock (.318 average), and senior catcher/designated hitter Caleb Bendewald (.264, 3 doubles, 11 RBIs).

Two other returning lettermen who could play key roles are senior outfielder/pitcher Harrison Campbell and senior first baseman/pitcher Daniel Stephens.

Newcomers to the varsity who could made a quick impact include freshman catcher Landon Gray and freshman second baseman Landon Weatherly. Also, senior Tanner Winn was injured all last season, and Hart said he can be some help at the plate.

“I think we are strong, as usual, in the pitching department,” said Hart. “We just aren’t very deep in that area. Plus, we don’t have two guys who can go seven innings every time we put them out there like we had last year.

“I think we can put some guys on the field who have some speed as well, so we should be pretty good on defense. I think we will have a decent hitting ballclub, but with our youth and inexperience I think that’s going to be a process and awhile to get there.

“Our speed should help us out offensively too. We should be able to do more this year on offense since we do have some guys who can run. Hopefully, that will produce more runs.”

The Pirates were up and down offensively last season, batting only .263 as a team with a single home run – by the now-graduated Wade McClintock. They did, however, pound out 37 doubles, including six by Hickey.

Also, pitching was solid with a 3.46 ERA, but seven of their 13 wins were posted by McClintock.

Realignment put the Pirates in a district (still called 7-4A) with always-tough Aledo and six Fort Worth schools, including perennial power Arlington Heights.

Heights is 10th in 4A in the first poll of the season by the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association.

“The new district is going to be tough,” said Hart. “I imagine it will be just like the old district.”

And, if the season holds true to form like most baseball seasons for Granbury, nothing will be decided until late in district play.

“I think it is going to be an interesting season,” he said. “I think it will be like every other year and come down to the last week of the season.

“It should prove to be exciting. We have worked all year since we lost our last game on increasing the competitiveness between our players.”

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Granbury Classic Chevrolet Tournament

Thursday’s games

Burleson vs. Paschal, 9 a.m., Tidwell Field

Timberview vs. Ranger, 9 a.m., Granbury Middle School

Burleson vs. Sweetwater, 11:15 a.m., Tidwell

Stephenville vs. Ranger, 11:15 a.m., GMS

Granbury vs. Sweetwater, 1:30 p.m., Tidwell

Timberview vs. Paschal, 1:30 p.m., GMS

Stephenville vs. Western Hills, 3:45 p.m., Tidwell

Granbury vs. Abilene Cooper, 6 p.m., Tidwell

Friday’s games

Timberview vs. Western Hills, 9 a.m., Tidwell

Stephenville vs. Sweetwater, 9 a.m., GMS

Burleson vs. Timberview, 11:15 a.m., Tidwell

Sweetwater vs. Ranger, 11:15 a.m., GMS

Stephenville vs. Paschal, 1:30 p.m., Tidwell

Western Hills vs. Cooper, 1:30 p.m., GMS

Granbury vs. Ranger, 3:45 p.m., Tidwell

Paschal vs. Cooper, 6 p.m., Tidwell

Saturday’s games

Cooper vs. Ranger, 9 a.m., Tidwell

Paschal vs. Western Hills, 10 a.m., GMS

Burleson vs. Cooper, 11:15 a.m., Tidwell

Western Hills vs. Sweetwater, 1:30 p.m., Tidwell

Burleson vs. Stephenville, 3:45 p.m., Tidwell

Granbury vs. Timberview, 6 p.m. Tidwell