The Woodlands coach Ron Eastman describes his 2020 team as one of the deepest and most talented he’s had during his tenure leading the program.

That team, unfortunately, did not get to see their state championship ambitions come to fruition. The season was halted just a couple of weeks in, and was later canceled altogether due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Highlanders finished the season with a 13-2-2 overall record and were ranked as one of the top teams in the state.

“We lost everybody, pretty much, from last year’s squad as far as our starting lineup,” Eastman said. “We were playing at a very high level, and it was one of the deepest, strongest teams we’ve ever had. That was a tough pill to swallow for those seniors. They were really committed to getting back to the Dell (Diamond for the state tournament).”

Getting back on the field holds special significance for the returning players because of the trails from a year ago.

“I think they’re very thankful and grateful,” Eastman said. “We talk about that a lot in the program, and last year was just really a test of that — be grateful for what you have.”

Despite a mass exodus of talent that included Colorado Rockies first-round pick and catcher Drew Romo, The Woodlands has plenty of up-and-coming players that have the potential for breakout seasons in 2021.

The pitching staff will be the strength of the team. Senior pitcher/infielder Dylan Kerbow, a Texas State signee, leads the way there.

“He was going to be one of our top pitchers last year, and he’ll be one of the top guys this year,” Eastman said. “He also swings the bat really well, and we’re looking for him to continue being a leader for us.”

Senior pitchers Justin Barry-Smith and Will Chauffe, who signed with Southern Alabama and Pepperdine, respectively, will also be key players on the mound this spring.

Sophomore Baylor commit Brayden Sharp is a strong lefty who will also play in center field. Junior TCU commit Tyler Brautigam will also be a reliable arm for Eastman.

Senior pitcher/infielder James Marin and junior infielder Harrison DiPasquale also have a chance to be impact players.

The Woodlands will be without the services of senior pitcher and Baylor signee Cody Howard, who is recovering from surgery.

“We’ve got competition at almost every spot,” Eastman said. “I think we’re pretty solid, but we just have very little experience at the varsity level. … Hopefully we’ll be strong on the mound and, hopefully, we can play good defense. Probably the biggest thing for us this year will be finding a way to score runs against good pitching.”

The Woodlands will be facing some tough competition in the new District 13-6A this season. Familiar foes Conroe, College Park and Oak Ridge join Class 6A newcomers Willis and Grand Oaks to round out the league.

“There’s going to be six good teams in our district,” Eastman said. “I think everybody is working hard to get to that lineup that’s going to help them win district ballgames. I’m excited about it. Three rounds of getting to see quality competition will be good for everybody.”

jpoorman@hcnonline.com

Original Article from: https://www.yourconroenews.com/neighborhood/moco/sports/article/BASEBALL-The-Woodlands-lacks-experience-but-not-15973052.php