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Bears to battle for berth in baseball playoffs

The success of the baseball program at Little Cypress Mauriceville can be seen in the lengthy list of playoff appearances made over the years. The Bears will do everything they can to add another season to that list this spring.

Coach Hunter Hagler will guide the Little Cypress Mauriceville Bears again this season in their hunt for the post season which was just missed the year before. "Last year came down to the wire. We had a play in game in which Vidor beat us to give the Pirates the fourth spot in the playoffs. Things happen for a reason, you learn from them, you get better from them, and you move on," Hagler reminded.

There are Bears back from that team last year that almost made the playoffs who will be leaders this season. Dean Reynolds, Cameron Bilbo, and Pierce Brown are all seniors who made major contributions and should play significant roles as the season progresses.

Reynolds can play anywhere on the field but his specialty is on the mound as a starting pitcher and in the outfield. Dean pitched a gem for Little Cypress Mauriceville against Splendora the last week of February and more of the same is expected from the righthanded ace of the Bear staff.

Bilbo is moving from being primarily a designated hitter to be the regular catcher and a second or third pitcher for Coach Hagler. Brown is shifting back to second base a position he is familiar with having played there coming up before being moved to the outfield.

Seniors that will see more playing time this season than before are Easton Gibbens, Dylan Istre, and Evan Landry. Hagler commented, "As far as seniors go a lot of guys are starting to step up that will help on the mound, provide spot plays in the field, and different stuff like that filling in where we need them."

There are returning starters to Little Cypress Mauriceville who are not seniors but will be leaders again this season. Newcomer of the Year in the district last year was the Bears' Parker Seago who played shortstop, batted in the leadoff position, and will do more pitching this season.

Another underclassman is Marco Bandiero who will continue to hit in the middle of the batting order for the Bears. Bandiero will play first base and throws left handed on the mound.

Landon Richards played in spots last year but will get more action this season. Coach Hagler said Richards should play primarily at third base and have a significant role in the Little Cypress Mauriceville lineup.

The Bears have depth on the bench that can be called on. "There's another whole slew of guys after that who could potentially show up and do some different things," Hagler added.

These include freshmen Parker Freeman and Justin McCarver. Freeman is big, tall, strong and lanky allowing him to throw the ball with some tenacity.

Hagler elaborated on McCarver and the other young Bears. "He's a guy who can play the outfield, he can catch, he can play the infield, he's just an all-around grinder like a hard-nosed kid that just loves the game, and that's what we're starting to learn with a lot of our guys, they're starting to really enjoy being out here every day, they're starting to really enjoy competing together, they're loving that atmosphere of producing what we're starting to produce which is exciting to me," Hagler described.

Clay Raney is another Bear that will fill spots to allow others guys to play certain positions. Raney is a defensive specialists who can play shortstop when Parker Seago is pitching or when Landon Richards pitches Clay can go to third base to play. Raney can even play in the outfield when called to do so.

Hitting started a little slow for Little Cypress Mauriceville but in the last week or two the Bears have begun to find their niche in swinging their bats. They are learning a team offense that will include some small ball and executing plays that work to produce runs.

The Bears are starting to accomplish some offensive goals established earlier. Hagler explained, "Here lately we've been meeting a lot of our in game offensive goals which has me real excited to see this early because normally you don't get that until maybe after the second or third tournament where you've really seen a lot of pitches and you have twenty or thirty at bats under your belt. We attribute this to the Bears buying into the system, enjoying it, loving the competition of it, and then just competing together as a group."

The team offense scheme has seen the Bears taking on different roles to help the team produce runs. "Guys that kind of play the leadoff role, guys that are bat skill guys, and guys that are driving runs in. These past three or four scrimmages those guys are doing their job and that's what's important and what we try to preach that team role like everybody has their role and as long as you know your role correctly you can better benefit the team inside that role," Hagler described.

Discussion of pitching at Little Cypress Mauriceville starts with senior Dean Reynolds. He will be the lead pitcher for the Bears now, during the tournaments, and especially when the district starts in March.

Reynolds will be followed by Marco Bandiero the left-hander, Parker Seago, and Landon Richards who have all pitched on the varsity level previously. This should give Little Cypress Mauriceville a quality pitching corps with some depth.

There are other question marks concerning pitching in Coach Hagler's mind. Hagler explained, "In district it gets narrowed down to one, two, maybe three guys that are going to start for you. In the tournaments they are all kind of in that same role. We've got some guys that are stepping up that we didn't have a good idea where they were prior to the season."

Cameron Bilbo is just such a pitcher according to Hagler. Bilbo is making the most of his opportunity to pitch and he is a pleasant surprise.

Dylan Istre will come out of the bullpen primarily for the Bears. "He's a guy that we can send in that we feel confident in at any point that he's going to go in and throw strikes and gives the chance to make some outs.

Another relief specialist like that is Samuel Palmer who throws strikes and can be called on at any time during a game. Palmer will give the LCM defense the opportunity to make plays behind him.

The Little Cypress Mauriceville Bears are hungry and ready to compete for a place in the playoffs that just eluded them last season. "We're excited! I don't know how to explain it. We're a lot younger than we have been in the past, but we've got guys that love competing together and enjoy being on the field together. It's exciting and we're proud of them right for being as far a long in the process of how we do things and what we do," Hagler concluded.

Another step to the start of district for the Little Cypress Mauriceville Bears is participation in the Certa-Bearden Classic the first weekend in March. The Bears will play four games during the three days of the tournament.

Two games will be on Thursday for the Bears at 2:00 PM against Buna and at 4:30 PM against Orangefield. On Friday LCM plays at 9:00 AM against Warren. The Bears' final game will be Saturday at 9:00 AM against Liberty.


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