Grand Oaks has its first senior class this spring, and from the numbers alone it appears the baseball program at Conroe ISD’s newest high school is a full one.
The Grizzlies have 17 players in the Class of 2021 and many of them will play key roles as the program begins its first full season after having last year cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re beyond ready to get this season going,” Grand Oaks coach Lou Ferrell said in a recent phone interview. “It feels like it’s been forever since last season ended, or what we had of last season. Already in scrimmages, to see someone else in the other dugout is a pretty good feeling. It’s definitely a welcome change to get some outside competition.”
Grand Oaks has seniors all across the lineup that are expected to contribute. Cole Whorall, a southpaw, will pitch along with righties Kyle Derusse and Jason Burger. Preston Havenor and Sloan Laird will both get time behind the plate.
Antonio Sabala will play at first, while Jace Farnsworth will be a top of the order batter and patrol the middle infield. Connor McBride will patrol the outfield.
After losing much of their junior season last spring, Ferrell says the large senior class led the way once workouts were allowed.
“As soon as we started back up, our guys cranked it up and they’ve been getting after it since Day 1,” the coach said. “We’ve got a great group of seniors and I’m excited for them.”
The Grizzlies plan to carry a large roster this season. It’s something that could prove to be a necessity as the pandemic may lead to quarantines or other precautionary measures, though the pandemic isn’t the reason for the roster size. The large group of players has also led to internal competition.
“Our JV guys workout with us and get to compete against those guys every day,” Ferrell said. “I tell the guys whether they’re a subvarsity guy or behind somebody, they’re one play away from being the next guy up. We’re trying to stress that and making them work like they’re the next guy, make them be ready for it.”
Grand Oaks, which made its brief debut last spring in Class 5A, will jump up to 6A after last year’s realignment. The Grizzlies will compete alongside College Park, Conroe, Oak Ridge, Willis and The Woodlands. The local foes will play three rounds of District 13-6A play.
“We’re a growing program and it’s still a season with a lot of firsts - first senior class, first year in 6A,” Ferrell said. “We’re probably the underdog with it being our first year up with the big boys. We’ve got a lot to prove and I’m really excited for our kids to get a chance to rise to the challenge in such a great district.”