AP NEWS

Falcons want another dugout sign

February 15, 2019

There are 22 signs on the back of the first base dugout of the baseball field in Huffman.

The signs recognize the Hargrave Falcon baseball team’s district championships and playoff runs in previous years. The Falcons have another sign on the way after the 2018 squad made a run to the regional semifinal.

Senior Ben Leisure thinks about how he is part of a tradition of winning whenever he walks by them, and he and the Falcons want to add another one for the 2019 season.

They lifted weights, ran, and worked on conditioning from August until November. They started a throwing program after that, and they just recently started playing on the field and throwing in the bullpen.

“It’s like nothing else,” senior Matthew Dorcz said of the beginning of baseball season. “I wait all year for it. It’s finally here, and I’m super pumped.”

The Falcons began by playing four scrimmages from Feb. 4 to Feb. 15. They play tournaments and pre-district games from Feb. 21 to March 19 and begin district play on March 22.

Depending on the lineup it used, Hargrave is returning five or six of its nine starters from last season that won the district championship and advanced to the regional semifinals.

Among those returning starters are Leisure, an outfielder and pitcher and last season’s district MVP, sophomore Mason Strolberg, a first baseman and last season’s district Newcomer of the year, Dorcz, a first team All-District third baseman and senior Grant O’Neil, a second team All-District designated hitter who also played some catcher.

Cach Tom DeBerry was named district Coach of the Year.

“It’s huge,” DeBerry described the impact of that returning experience. “Anytime we have an MVP coming back and some all-district players we’re very excited. We’re hungry. We went four rounds deep last season and they want to get even further.”

Leisure said he doesn’t feel pressure coming back as the district MVP. He tries not to focus on past awards and achievements and put all his focus into getting better each day.

Though among the players that graduated were Tyler Price, the district Pitcher of the Year, and first team All-District players: pitcher JJ Galindo, second baseman Luke Bailey, and shortstop Will Johnson.

So finding a new top two pitchers and replacing the two middle infielders are DeBerry’s biggest concerns going into the season.

He’ll bat 11 or 12 people during those games to find the starting lineup that he’s going to use come district and playoff time.

He’ll throw each pitcher for 40 or 50 pitches during those games, as compared to the 80-100 he’ll throw them for in district play and the playoffs.

O’Neil sees the team’s closeness and chemistry and one if its biggest strengths. They have grown up playing little league and select ball together, so they know all of each other’s tendencies and how to best support each other.

DeBerry called the Huffman community and the team’s fans the backbone of the program. He said the deliver everything he ever asks for, and they always go above and beyond.

“It’s incredible. I love seeing the fans come out to the game and cheer us on,” said Leisure. “It keeps you going; it gives you support.”

Hargrave has made it to at least the regional semifinals, the fourth round of the playoffs, four of the past six seasons.

“I want to put another one up there that says 2019 state championship,” Dorcz said looking at the signs on the back of the dugout.

Follow the Hargrave baseball team on Twitter @FalconsHuffman

elliott.lapin@hearst.com