The El Campo Ricebirds were one of the top teams in the state last year, making it to the third round of the baseball playoffs and this season has been no different.
Through preseason play, El Campo has compiled a 9-2 record and is ranked 12th in the state. Despite two losses, El Campo has dominated play this year, outscoring teams 101-41. In the Ricebirds’ 11 games, they’ve managed three games against Sweeny and have beaten them twice. Sweeny last season went two rounds deep in the playoffs.
“I still don’t think we’ve hit our peak yet. I think we’re just getting better and better,” Ricebird coach Jacob Clay said. “We played really, really good in our scrimmages. We went through a little bit of a lull in the first tournament, but we won four games.”
The offense has played well, and El Campo’s pitching has been strong. El Campo hasn’t gotten a start from junior Oliver Miles who started a game against Bellville in the playoffs, due to a long basketball season. However, the Ricebirds still look to have a number of arms this year.
El Campo senior Brock Rod is leading the pitching staff again this year and he’s been playing well. Two games ago, against Sweeny, Rod tossed a one-hitter in four innings of work, striking out seven batters. El Campo has also gotten innings from sophomores James Dorotik, Lane Schulz and Bradyn Korenek along with juniors Dean Poenitzsch and Mason Bystrek and seniors Bryce Rasmussen and Kyle Barosh.
“We’re playing well and we’re pitching really well and that’s half the battle right there,” Clay said.
Two starters did not return from last season’s team, Jack Dorotik graduated and senior Reed Jung was injured during football this past year. Jung played third base for the Ricebirds and was a top-of-the-lineup bat.
“Losing Reed hurts. He was a big part of us. I tell people all the time he scored 14 runs against Beville in the years we played them,” Clay said.
Reed is still on the team, helping the coaches during practice.
While Dorotik graduated, another Dorotik has taken his place, with his younger brother James, filling the role at third base. James a sophomore, has played well scoring four runs in the team’s last six games.
Barosh, Rod and Poenitzsch the 1-2-3 in the Ricebirds batting order have been tough outs. In the last three games they have combined for 15 hits and 11 RBIs.
District play will be tougher this season, with the addition of Needville following the last UIL realignment. The Needville team is coached by former Ricebird and Ricebird coach Eillot Babcock.
With Needville, District 25 has five teams that went two rounds deep in the playoffs last season. Needville, El Campo and Bellville all made it to the third round.
“It’s a really competitive (district) and obviously only four teams make the playoffs and hopefully we aren’t left out,” Clay said.
El Campo opened district play on the road against Bellville last night. This upcoming week they’ll play Navasota Tuesday at home and Needville on the road Friday.
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