The Tyler Junior College Apaches begin their baseball season in the cold of February on Saturday with high hopes of playing in the heat of May for a national championship.
The always-contending Apaches enter the season with many fresh faces, but plenty of potential.
Apache coach Doug Wren, who is entering his fourth season as head coach, and his squad held their annual Media Day on Wednesday at beautiful Mike Carter Field. Although the wind was whipping and the temperatures were falling, the feel of baseball was in the air.
Gone are many stalwarts such as Cody Ellerbee, Taylor Drolette, Nico Moran, Payton Smith and Jeremy Christian, but Wren has some talent to step up.
Veterans on the mound returning include Eythan Lenz, of Hutto; Jacob French, of Kingwood; and Kyle Sargent, of Brock, Wren said. He also added that Hunter Sutton, a catcher/outfielder from Forney, will be a key player.
“Hunter is one of the lone guys back who had the majority of our at-bats in the lineup last year,” Wren said. “The rest of the lineup will be somewhat new. (Lenz, French, Sargent, Sutton) are some of the guys we will look to to anchor a young team early on.”
Others expected to play key roles for 2013 include Whitehouse freshman center fielder Logan Newton, Hallsville sophomore first baseman Blaise Warrick, Kilgore freshman pitcher Riley Toler (transfer from Navarro where he played football) and Angleton pitcher Kevin Williams (transfer from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi).
“They are a very talented, very inexperienced group,” Wren said. “We have some guys we have to count on that were not here last year. The standards and goals are still there — to make another run at it.”
It is the NJCAA Division III World Series, which is scheduled for May 20-25 at Mike Carter Field. The Apaches were fourth a year ago after finishing as runner-up in 2010 and champion in 2007.
Tyler has hosted the D-III World Series since 2007 and has secured the event through at least 2015.
The Apaches, who were 36-18 last year, open their season on Saturday against East Texas Baptist University in Marshall. The first game of the doubleheader is scheduled for noon.
TJC’s home opener is against Jarvis Christian College on Monday at Mike Carter Field. It is a single game with first pitch slated for 1 p.m.
SMOKE SIGNALS: Wren’s staff includes Travis Chick, Jackie Black and PJ Worthen. … Mike Carter Field is located at 1900 W. Houston St., on the East Texas Fairgrounds, adjacent to Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium, the Tyler Rose Garden and Harvey Convention Center. … Gone from the 2012 team and now playing at the next level include: Trevor Clifton (UT Dallas), Taylor Drolette (LSU- Shreveport), Cody Ellerbee (St. Edward’s), Blaine Hashagan (Friends), Estevan Hernandez (Northwood), Connor Lewis (LSU-Shreveport), John McManemin (Concordia), Nico Moran (Stephen F. Austin), Payton Smith (Stephen F. Austin) and Trey Wooten (Oklahoma Panhandle State).
2013 Tyler Junior College
Feb. 2 — at East Texas Baptist (DH), noon
Feb. 4 — Jarvis Christian, 1 p.m.
Feb. 6 — at Bossier Parish (La.), 1 p.m.
Feb. 9 — at Arkansas Baptist (DH), noon
Feb. 11 — at UT Tyler, 6 p.m.
Feb. 13 — Texas College (DH), 2 p.m.
Feb. 16 — Mountain View (DH), noon
Feb. 18 — at UT Tyler, 6 p.m.
Feb. 29 — at Mountain View (DH), noon
Feb. 22 — *vs. Carl Albert State, 6 p.m.
Feb. 23 — *vs. Carl Albert State, noon
Feb. 25 — Panola, 7 p.m.
Feb. 27 — Weatherford (DH), 1 p.m.
March 2 — at Weatherford (DH), 1 p.m.
March 4 — Texas College, 7 p.m.
March 6 — Brookhaven, 6 p.m.
March 9 — at Hinds (Miss.) (DH), noon
March 11 — at Panola, 7 p.m.
March 16 — Arkansas Baptist (DH), noon
March 18 — at Concordia (DH), 1 p.m.
March 22 — LSU-Eunice, 6 p.m.
March 23 — LSU-Eunice, 6 p.m.
March 24 — LSU-Eunice, 1 p.m.
March 29 — Bossier Parish (La.) (DH), noon
April 3 — at Northwood (DH), 1 p.m.
April 6 — at Cisco (DH), 1 p.m.
April 8 — UT Tyler, 6 p.m.
April 10 — Jarvis Christian, 6 p.m.
April 13 — Dallas Christian (DH), noon
April 15 — Bossier Parish (DH), 3 p.m.
April 19 — at LSU-Eunice, 6 p.m.
April 20 — at LSU-Eunice, 6 p.m.
April 21 — at LSU-Eunice, 1 p.m.
April 24 — at Brookhaven, 2 p.m.
April 27 — Panola (DH), 3 p.m.
April 29 — at Hill, TBA
May 3 — **vs. North Arkansas, 6 p.m.
May 4 — **vs. North Arkansas (DH), noon
May 10 — MAC Play-in series, 6 p.m.
May 11 — MAC Play-in series (DH), noon
May 25-30 — NJCAA Division III World Series
* — at UT Tyler’s Irwin Field
** — at Hendrix College in Conway, Ark.
Note: All home games at Mike Carter Field; The NCJAA D-III World Series will be held at Mike Carter Field.