By Dave Wagner
After narrowly missing out on a playoff berth last spring in its first year of eligibility, the Texico High baseball team entered the 2004 campaign with high hopes.
The Wolverines remain optimistic, but the job has been made tougher by the fact that three players they were counting on this spring are not out for the team.
Texico, off to a 4-1 start, is idle until next week due to spring break at the school. The Wolverines resume the schedule next Tuesday in their District 7-1A/2A opener at Santa Rosa.
“We have a lot of kids coming back, but we’re missing three kids that I thought were going to be starters,” second-year coach Richard Luscombe said. “We probably have pretty high expectations for most of (the returnees). Most of our pitching is back, and I feel like we’ve got maybe four or five pretty good pitchers.
“I really feel pretty good about our situation.”
The sudden lack of depth means others will simply have to carry a bigger load.
“We don’t mind doing that,” junior catcher-center fielder Logan Brown said. “We’ve all played football and basketball together, so we don’t mind picking up the slack. We should still have a chance to do pretty well.”
The third-year program opened its season with wins over the Portales junior varsity and the Clovis “C” team early last week, then finished fifth in a weekend tournament at Eunice.
“We’ve got a good nucleus back,” Brown said. “Our hitting will come around; we’ve just got to work on our defense a little.”
Along with Brown, other returnees include junior pitcher-shortstop-catcher Braden Vaughan, senior first baseman-pitcher Bryce Bailey and sophomore second baseman-pitcher Aaron Vaughan.
Luscombe said he started the season with Braden Vaughan hitting cleanup and the burly Bailey down toward the bottom of the order. He then decided to move Vaughan to leadoff and Bailey to the 4-hole, with some positive results.
“Bryce enjoys being in that No. 4 spot,” Luscombe said. “My hope was we could use Bryce as sort of a second cleanup hitter, but it didn’t work out.”
Luscombe said defending district champion Dora and runnerup Santa Rosa, which won a tiebreaker with Texico for the second district playoff berth last year, were hit fairly hard by graduation. But those teams may still be the top competition for Texico in a district which also includes Floyd and Elida.
That makes Tuesday’s game a big one.
“If we can win that one, it would put us in good shape,” Brown said. “If we can play good defense and hit the ball, we’ve got a good chance to win the district.”