Last year, Jesuit made school history by reaching the Class 6A state baseball tournament. Next year, the Rangers will have three alums playing for top programs in the Big 12 Conference.
But what about this season? Outsiders again expect big things from Jesuit after its recent run of success. However, head coach Brian Jones is trying to downplay those expectations and the pressure that comes with them. The Rangers aren’t motivated by national polls or state rankings.
“We don’t talk about it,” Jones said. “We need to leave last year as last year. We’re proud and fortunate to have had the year we did last year, but that was a different group.”
Jesuit tallied 35 wins last season and reached the state semifinals before falling 2-1 to eventual champion Cypress Ranch. Yet it was the first time any Jesuit team qualified for a state tournament since the school joined the UIL in 2003.
25-27 Bryan tourney TBA
3 Plano West Noon
3 Rich. Berkner 7:30
4 Bishop Lynch Noon
4 Lovejoy 7:30
5 Austin Westlake 1:30
5 Rockwall 4:00
10 at Coppell 11 a.m.
10 Denton Guyer %1:30
11 Richland^ 4:00
11 at Prosper 6:30
12 Midland^ 12:30
12 Rockwall^ 3:00
17 at Sunset* 7:30
18 Sunset* 7:30
22 at Skyline* 4:30
24 Skyline* 7:30
28 at Irving* 7:30
31 Irving* 7:30
5 at Irving Nimitz* 7:30
8 Irving Nimitz* 7:30
12 W.T. White* 7:30
15 at W.T. White* 5:00
19 at Irving Mac.* 7:30
22 Irving Mac.* 7:30
26 Carrollton* 7:30
29 at Carrollton* 7:30
* — District 9-6A game
^ — at Prosper
% — at Coppell
The Rangers lost some key components from that team who are now playing in college, including outfielder Darius Hill (West Virginia), pitcher Harrison Folk (Johns Hopkins), and infielder Nic Ready (Air Force).
Still, plenty of firepower is back for Jesuit, especially on the pitching staff. Four hurlers who played critical roles in the deep playoff run will be back on the mound this spring, including southpaws Kyle Muller, Pete Hamrick, and Jacob Palisch, along with right-hander J.J. Montenegro.
With less experience at the plate, Jones knows that strong pitching and solid defense might need to carry the Rangers during the early part of the season.
“That’s probably where we’re going to hang our hat until we figure out the offense and the lineup,” he said. “We’ve got a good group coming back, but we also lost a lot.”
Muller, who plays in the outfield when he’s not pitching, also is one of the top returning hitters for Jesuit, joining shortstop Cameron Dobbs, catcher Bryce Bonner, and infielder Mark Ready.
“He’s a teammate. He doesn’t approach this season as a one-man show,” Jones said of Muller. “He’s only as good as the other eight guys in the lineup.”
Muller hit .383 last season with seven home runs and 33 runs batted in. He was 8-1 on the mound with a 0.99 earned-run average and 106 strikeouts.
He signed with Texas in November, when teammate Cameron Dobbs signed with rival Oklahoma State. Next year, both of them also will oppose Hill, who is in the same conference at West Virginia.
So that raises the obvious question – has the trash-talking already begun?
“There hasn’t been a lot so far,” Muller joked. “Once we get to playing each other, it will be a little more special.”
Dobbs, who will miss at least the first half of this season with an injury, chose Oklahoma State even though both of his parents went to Texas.
“It will be really fun. I’m looking forward to it,” Dobbs said. “I think that shows how hot the program is now and that it’s definitely headed in the right direction.”