Cougars carry high hopes

Canyon High School sophomore Carlos Gonzales throws batting practice during a practice session last week. The Cougars open baseball season on Monday, Feb. 20, against San Antonio Christian. Previews of area baseball teams are on page 6. Photo by Kevin Force.

by Kevin Force, Editor

After a season good enough for a playoff appearance, the Canyon baseball team returns to the diamond this season with high hopes.

The Cougars are looking to knock off Dripping Springs and New Braunfels as the frontrunners in District 27-4A and establish themselves as the premier club of the league.

"We feel like we're going to be a lot better," said head coach Peter Garza. "We feel like we can compete with anybody in this district."

Garza's confidence does not waiver despite a young roster that has veterans but no overwhelming amount of senior leadership from last year's 15-12 team.

Of the five returning starters, three are seniors, and two make up the Cougars' top battery. Pitcher Jerris Springfield begins the year as the ace of the staff, and he'll most likely throw to Cameron Henk, unless depth can allow Henk to move elsewhere in the infield.

Garza said that's a move he'd like to make, but it wasn't mandatory because of a solid infield.

"Our whole infield should be much stronger," Garza said, praising it as his top defensive unit.

Cody Covington is part of that unit and the third returning senior starter, although he misses significant workout time in the early season while playing basketball. But once the hoops season is over, Covington will likely slide into a slot at first base.

The left side of the infield also looks solid. Trenton Irwin is the Cougars' top glove man and will play shortstop. Transfer Ryan Sinclair looks to have a bead on third base in between pitching appearances.

Garza expects sophomore JP Ramirez to provide a little of the offensive firepower. Ramirez started as a freshman last year in centerfield, and will start in either left or center this year. He and Henk will be among the squad's leading hitters.

The roster fills out with a number of younger players coming up through the Canyon system, and Garza believes at least one or two will crack the starting lineup.

The Cougars have conducted several scrimmages already and open the regular season on Monday, Feb. 20, at 5 p.m. against San Antonio Christian. In mid-March, district play begins.

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