Before a pitch was thrown this season, the El Campo Ricebirds were ranked the 20th best team in the state according to TXHighschoolbaseball.com.
A heady accomplishment, considering what they lost through graduation, which included four starters in pitcher Wayne Svatek, catcher Clay Jung, outfielder Tyler Stephenson and second baseman Seth Estrada.
Despite losing three big bats and a key arm, what they are bringing back along with what they are adding has people taking notice.
“We had a lot of seniors last year, but we also had a lot of underclassmen who played every day and those guys are all back,” El Campo coach Trent Popp said. “(This year’s) team has 11 seniors with six underclassmen, a great mix of veteran leadership with young guys who are ready to go. With that mix, everyone sees we are a team to contend with.”
Returning seniors Jackson David, Tyler Baklik, Kaden Alcalais and sophomore Brock Rod all hit over .330 last season.
After an early hiccup to Brazosport in their first game of the season, El Campo has ripped off three straight wins.
In their wins over Needville, Calhoun and Giddings, they got complete-game pitching performances. Rod allowed two earned runs in seven innings against Needville. Senior Seth Hallinger allowed no earned runs in seven innings against Calhoun. David closed out the 3-1 week with six innings and no earned runs against Giddings.
The Ricebird pitching staff could be a strength of the team this year, Popp said.
“Absolutely, we’ve got two seniors in Jackson and Seth and Rod’s a sophomore and they’ve all got the stuff,” Popp said.
Since returning to the field following the winter storm, the Ricebirds have been happy with what they are seeing.
“We have a bunch of younger (players) that are stepping up and playing well,” David said. “Our seniors are stepping up and leading, everything is coming together and we’re playing as a team.”
The Ricebirds will be in action this Thursday through Saturday in the Yoakum tournament. Next week they’ll host their own annual varsity tournament.