Roundin' the Bases

2018 Baseball Preview: 6A Top 20 rankings team previews – #1-10

Katy’s Matthew Kissamis, Coy Cobb, Nathan Phillips, Hayden Ebrecht and Michael Schrab vype.com

#1 CYPRESS RANCH MUSTANGS

Coach: Corey Cephus

2017 Postseason: UIL 6A Regional Quarterfinals; Lost to Fort Bend Ridge Point

Cypress Ranch has two state titles (2012 and 2015) this decade but could add another in 2018. The Mustangs’ roster is not only experienced but will also contribute to the next level during ensuing seasons. Seniors Scotty Scott (Hawaii) and Colton Cowser (Sam Houston) lead Cy Ranch in the outfield. Others to watch include senior infielder Westley Schields (Blinn), senior pitcher Ty Madden (Texas), closer Kyle Gough (Blinn), and juniors Jared Alvarez-Lopez and Matt Thompson (Texas A&M). Brett Wizig (Brookhaven College), Bryce Toney (Panola College), Hayden Collins (Panola College), Robert Charles Trevino (Frontier Community College) and Ty Williams (University of Indianapolis) round out the team’s 2018 signing class. The starting pitching will be the biggest strength of this team and something teams will have to figure out if they want to chalk up a win against this staff.

#2 FORT BEND KEMPNER

Coach: Marc Jones

2017 Postseason: Bi-District; Lost to Katy Tompkins

After a season-long battle for a playoff spot fending off some of the best teams in Texas from Ridge Point to Travis, who spent  much of the season as No. 1 in Texas, the Kempner Cougars found themselves as the second seed going into playoffs. The playoff run was short in 2017 as Kempner took an early exit, losing to the Tompkins Falcons. This year’s Cougars expect a far deeper run with the final year of Texas Longhorn-signees – slugger Alec Carr and starting pitcher Simeon Woods. With much of the roster returning from just a year ago and the addition of Noah McCollum, little brother of the hard-hitting Jeremiah McCollum, the lineup should be deadly for any pitcher to face.

#3 THE WOODLANDS HIGHLANDERS

Coach: Ron Eastman

2017 Postseason: Reached the Regional Quarters: Lost to Rockwall-Heath

Scotland Yard is the home of the The Woodlands Highlanders. The outfield walls show the history of the program – the state titles in 2013, 2006 and 2000. On the press box is a list of all-state and All-American selections. The list is long with names that include Arizona Diamondback Paul Goldschmidt to Super Bowl champ Danny Amendola. It’s fitting that The Woodlands is led by coach Ron Eastman, who was recently inducted into the National High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame. The 2018 installment of the Highlanders is loaded with fire-power. The ace of the staff is first-teamer Steven Beard, a crafty lefty with sneaky pop on his fastball. Behind the plate is Newcomer of the Year Drew Romo, an LSU-commit who moves back to his natural position of catcher from shortstop. Junior pitcher/ third baseman Will Swope (Texas- commit) could have a breakout season at the plate and on the mound, while senior UTSA-signee Shane Sirdashney brings power to a deep lineup. Zayne Watson will patrol the outfield along with Evan Perez, while Ryan Solberg, Stephen Perry and Cannon Sims will anchor the infield. The pitching staff will need some depth to make a legit run to state.

#4 KATY TIGERS

Coach: Tom McPherson

2017 Postseason: Regional Quarterfinals; Lost to Fort Bend Travis

The Katy Tigers are loaded once again in 2018 as coach Tom McPherson enters his 31st season with more than 760 wins. The Tigers are trying to get back to state for the first time since 2006 and have the roster to be a Region III favorite. Texas-commit Coy Cobb leads the pitching staff joined by first-teamers Nathan Phillips and Christian Vega (Incarnate Word). Behind the plate is All-State selection Michael Schrab (Panola JC), while Chris Amador and Matt Kissmiss will patrol the outfield. The designated hitter is Hayden Ebrecht, who was a first-team, all-district selection and has signed with Dallas Baptist. Bryce Coveney, who holds down second base, will lead the infield group. Katy will be tested with a tough tournament season and will have to fight off Cinco Ranch, Tompkins and Seven Lakes for the district crown. With three solid arms and a potent lineup, the Tigers will be a tough out in the playoffs.

#5 DEER PARK DEER

Coach: Chris Rupp

2017 Postseason: Won Class 6A State Championship beating San Antonio Reagan

Deer Park finally did it. After making multiple trips to the state baseball tournament, the Deer finally got to lift the trophy. Deer Park defeated San Antonio Reagan 7-2 at Dell Diamond in June to capture the program’s first title. Now how do they follow it up? Deer Park does lose some key pieces, including District 22-6A MVP Peyton Sherlin, University of Houston’s Clay Aguilar and UTSA’s Chase Keng, but has some talent coming back. Blake Martin (1B/DH) was a State All-Tournament and first-team, all district selection. Also coming back is Blaine Holden, Mark Barrow and Austin Mitchell. The biggest question remains, does Deer Park have enough to repeat?

#6 FORT BEND TRAVIS TIGERS

Coach: Rodney Hernandez

2017 Postseason: Regional Finalist; Lost to Deer Park

Last year’s No. 1 team in Texas, the Travis Tigers, only lost eight games last year with three coming in the postseason. The Tigers lived up to high billing, making it all the way to the Regional Final before falling to eventual 6A State Champion Deer Park in a three-game series. Much of that team is returning, meaning that Tiger fans are expecting to play in the final game of the season and hoist that trophy. Ace pitcher Trey Faltine is returning as the No. 1 arm in the rotation and when not pitching he’ll be just behind the mound at shortstop. Brother of Arkansas baseball player and Travis alum Cole Turney, Blake Turney is looking to take the closer role. Former assistant coach Cody Weatherly has left for Bridgeland High School, while the Tigers added former Cypress Springs head coach Rick Grimm to the staff. The bomber Kevin Ortiz has returned to cover third base for the Tigers as well. With a year of experience under their belts, this young team has a target on their back like they did much of last season.

#7 OAK RIDGE WAR EAGLES

Coach: Mike Pirtle

2017 Postseason: Reached the Regional Quarters: Lost to Rockwall

Coach Mike Pirtle has led the Oak Ridge War Eagles the past seven years and has reached the postseason the past five seasons. Three seasons ago, Oak Ridge made school history by reaching the regional finals with the star power of Luke Baker and Durbin Feltman. Both are now at TCU. Can the Eagles soar to state in 2018? The district race will be tough with The Woodlands and College Park in conference, and Region II is always a blood bath, but Oak Ridge is gritty enough to make a run. Pirtle will lean on TCU-commit Logan Letney on the mound and at the plate after all-district honors a year ago. Kyle Conley will also be a big part of the pitching staff, while doubling as an outfielder. Infielder Wyatt Spoon is skilled at the plate and with the glove, but Oak Ridge has a new addition that could be a game-changer. Chase Roberts is a move-in from South Carolina and was a Clemson commit. He moved to Houston and recently signed with the University of Texas. Could he be the difference? He will add depth on the mound and power at the plate. Just what the doctor ordered.

#8 GEORGE RANCH LONGHORNS

Coach: Greg Kobza

2017 Postseason: Area Finalist; Lost to La Porte

A District 23-6A Championship and a second-round playoff exit were the final results of George Ranch’s season just a year ago. With University of Houston-commit Cole McMillan, Texas A&M-commit Joseph Menefee (District MVP and Team USA) to lead the pitching rotation and University of Houston- commit Ty Abraham, the Longhorns have high expectations. The talent is all over the roster, so the question is, can the team return last year’s nearly flawless defense to compliment some dominant hitting?

#9 KINGWOOD MUSTANGS

Coach: Kelly Mead

2017 Postseason: Area Finalist; Lost to Clear Springs

Kingwood will be one of the teams to keep an eye on in Houston this season. The Mustangs will be playing the majority of their home games at Summer Creek High School, which has served as the team’s temporary home while Kingwood High School has been getting repaired. Despite this displacement, Kingwood has the pieces to make a run. It starts on the mound as Cody Lancaster and sophomore stud Masyn Winn are back. Winn had a very productive offseason closing for the USA Baseball 15U team in Colombia. Recently, Winn verbally committed to Stanford as well. Other players to watch on this Mustangs’ squad are Austin Flematti (Cornell University), Carter Amarantos, Ben Cegelski and Tre Richardson (University of Houston). The keys to success for Kingwood include playing as a team, selflessness and staying hungry.

#10 KLEIN BEARKATS

Coach: Barry Smith

2017 Postseason: Area Round; Fell to Anderson

Head coach Barry Smith will be going after his 500th win in 2018 and a state tournament appearance might just be the game that brings him that total. Coming in at 473 career wins means Smith will have to rely on returning starters Ruben Aguirre, Texas signee Greyson Lembcke and first-teamer Jose Gonzalez to pull the Bearkats over their area playoff defeat from 2017. The Bearkats had a legitimate chance of a playoff run last season before losing a pair of heartbreakers to Austin Anderson by one run – 3-2 and 2-1. Look for the Bearkats to challenge Klein Oak and Klein Collins for the District 15-6A title in 2018.

This article appears in the February Issue of VYPE Magazine. Pick up your copy at any one of our locations today!

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It's all about Deshaun. Photo by Getty Images. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

The Texans moved to 3-7 following their 27-20 win over the Patriots. They are still without a permanent head coach and general manager. There lies the problem, and those problems will be settled this upcoming offseason. The new general manager and head coach will steer this franchise in the direction it needs to go in. Undoubtedly, Deshaun Watson will be at the forefront of what they do. How can he not be? You don't take a job like this with a quarterback like him and not consider him the centerpiece. What else would make one take either of those jobs? The salary cap hell the team is facing? The lack of draft picks coming off a terrible year? The faith ownership has placed in the NFL's version of Littlefinger?

Watson is the lone attraction to the flaming dumpster fire Cal McNair allowed to occur on his watch. If he's not careful, it could get worse and he'll find it hard to recover from. Watson signed an extension that'll keep him in Houston for another four years. He'll still be in his prime (barring any serious, career-threatening injury), and be eligible to hit the market as a free agent before he turns 30. So who do the Texans hire as head coach that can get the most out of Watson? Who can convince him to stay and re-sign after his extension is up?

The main cast of characters will most likely take better jobs. The Jets job is more attractive because of the cap space and draft picks. If the Falcons job opens up, so is it because of Matt Ryan and that offense. What coach/coaches would be interested in taking on this job that would be viable candidates given that the best of the best would take other jobs? Jayson Braddock and I tackled this topic not too long ago on Late Hits. Here are a few guys off the beaten path we felt were contenders:

Brian Daboll, Bills offensive coordinator: Daboll is a guy who, according to NFL.com's Lance Zierlein, is openly campaigning for this job. The work he's done with Josh Allen has been remarkable. Allen has gone from a raw prospect with all the physical tools to an MVP candidate. Who wouldn't want a guy like that in Watson's ear guiding him over the foreseeable future?

Greg Roman, Ravens offensive coordinator: Roman has done wonders for Colin Kaepernick and Lamar Jackson. He helped Kaepernick reach a Super Bowl with the 49ers and turned Jackson into last season's league MVP. Given his history with athletic quarterbacks, he should be a natural fit and given full consideration.

Tony Elliott, Clemson offensive coordinator: Here's where it gets interesting. Elliott has been the OC (or co-OC) at Clemson since 2015. He has an established relationship with Watson and a proven track record as a coordinator of high-powered offenses in college. He's the type of hire that won't cost as much as some big names will, but might be able to provide the same spark.

Note that all three of these guys are offensive coaches. I fully understand that the defense is an issue and needs help desperately. I also understand that the previous two coaches were offensive guys as well. But Watson is your franchise quarterback and the most attractive piece in a pile of flaming dung that resides on Kirby. If anyone is going to take this job, it'll be because of number four. I know these aren't the sexy names most folks would want to hear, but these names are more realistic as candidates. None of them has head coaching experience. That fact cheapens their price tag and lends itself to them being long shots. A lot of this depends on the general manager hire. We'll get into that in another articel. For right now, dwell on this and let me know what you think.

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