Bobcats should be strong in baseball again this season
Last updated 2/26/2023 at 2pm
The Orangefield Bobcats won their second straight district championship in baseball last season. The Bobcats advanced to the fourth round of the state playoffs before being eliminated by China Spring.
Coach Tim Erickson had a lot of returning lettermen from the district champions the year before and appreciated the great work done by those Bobcats as they defended their district title. "I had a really good team last year with a lot of upperclassmen, guys with experience, and we were expecting big things from them and that's what we got. We ended up going four rounds in the playoffs, so a very successful year. We looked back and I think we set a school record for winning percentage and were one game off the record with 28 for total wins in a season," Erickson reminded.
Graduation did take many of those Bobcats from the last two seasons, but there are still players that will contribute their experience this year for Orangefield. The leading two are Kyle Michael at first base and Caleb Fregia who will be moving from second base to shortstop. Both are juniors.
The move of Fregia from second to short was a tough decision. Erickson explained, "I was kind of hesitant about that move, not because Caleb couldn't do it but he just played such a good second base for us last year. Caleb has looked really good in scrimmages so making that move I have no doubts about it now I think it was the right move to make."
A third Bobcat with a wealth of talent and experience is Jason Bodin a senior. Bodin will be the key fixture on the mound for Orangefield. Jason gained a lot of experience last year and will be the leader of the pitching corps.
Bodin's battery mate was Rusten Traxler in previous seasons. Traxler will be counted on a lot more as a senior to catch the bulk of the games for the Bobcats this season.
Two Bobcats that will be moving into bigger roles are Camden Fountain and Cameron Dearing. "They were part of what we did last year as courtesy runners for the most part, but are stepping into bigger roles this year so we're expecting a lot from them," Erickson stated.
A newcomer to the Orangefield varsity is Brycen Tait as a pitcher. Erickson believes Tait will probably be the Bobcats number two starter behind Bodin. Brycen did pitch in one varsity tournament last year and did really well earning him a spot on the bench during the Bobcats' playoff run last season.
Coach Erickson said Tait had valuable innings on the mound pitching in junior varsity and has looked good so far this year with the varsity. Erickson added, "We know what Brycen can do, he's going to be consistent for us, so we're expecting big things from him."
A junior Logan Cheek has really swung the bat well in the early going for the Bobcats. Cheek is recovering from a hand injury that kept him out for two weeks. Logan is working his way back in and should contribute offensively for Orangefield.
Great batting and power hitting were primary reasons for the outstanding success of the Orangefield Bobcats the last two seasons, but they may change a little bit this year. "I think we're going to be a team that just handles the bat pretty well, I'm not sure we'll swing as good as we did last year one through nine," Erickson indicated.
One Bobcat that should be a strong hitter is Kyle Michael who comes off last year being the district's most valuable player. Michael will be expected to be the big producer of runs batted in for Orangefield like he was last year.
Another hitting star who is expected to produce at the plate for the Bobcats is Logan Cheek. Erickson pointed out, "Rusten Traxler has swung the bat really well through scrimmages, and we know what he is capable of, but he has really shown it so far early this season."
Caleb Fregia hit better in the playoffs last year than he did in the regular season. He has picked up his hitting and looked good through the scrimmages.
Coach Erickson evaluated the Orangefield offense. "We're counting on those big guys to drive in runs, and then a lot of other guys to just handle the bat well with situational hitting to get on base," Erickson answered.
After being a very effective number three starter the last two years Jason Bodin will be the Bobcats' number one pitcher this season. Erickson stated, "Jason has made a name for himself that everybody knows who he is in the area. The opponents know if it's a big game that's who we're going to have on the mound, and he's looked outstanding so far pitching as good as I could ask throughout the scrimmages, so we're expecting big things from him, and I think we're going to get big things from him."
The other arm Erickson is counting on is Brycen Tait just to be consistent. Tait should be the number two starter throwing every other game in district.
The rest of the pitching staff is still a work in progress in an effort to see who can do different jobs on the mound. Colton Myers will throw some innings in relief and has been effective through the scrimmages. Garrett Rawls is coming from basketball so he is just starting to work his way back into a pitching groove, and has a lot of movement on his pitches. "Those are two guys we'll look for innings from out of the bullpen I think especially once we get into district," Erickson asserted.
Orangefield enters a new district this season with the reclassification implemented by the University Interscholastic League which dropped the Bobcats from Class 4A to Class 3A. The change in classification does not change the goals for the Orangefield Bobcats.
Two district championships in a row is a habit the Bobcats are not ready to quit enjoying. Erickson commented, "We're to the point where the district championship is our goal and almost an expectation. The fine line between those two things I feel like we're capable of it."
Another district championship would mean a berth in the post season which leads to the other goal and expectation for Orangefield. "Getting in the playoffs and making a run like we've done the last couple years to see how far we can go in it. If we can get some more pitching depth by the time the playoffs get here I really like where we are. Any time we can put Jason out there we're going to have a good chance to win," Erickson concluded.
The Orangefield Bobcats played three games in the Team Granger Cardinal Invitational held in Bridge City the last weekend of February. The Bobcats lost their first two games before winning big in their final game.
Orangefield lost to two class 5A teams Nederland and Port Neches-Groves. The Bobcats fell by the same score of 5-4 on Thursday and Friday respectfully.
Friday night Jason Bodin allowed one hit, walked two, and struck out eight in his four innings of pitching for the Bobcats in their 11-0 win over Bridge City. Matthew Johnson pitched a scoreless inning with two strikeouts. Kyle Michael swung the biggest bat for Orangefield going two-for-two with two walks scoring two runs and driving in three.
This coming weekend Orangefield will play in the Certa-Bearden Classic at West Orange-Stark. The Bobcats will play Little Cypress Mauriceville at 4:30 on Thursday afternoon. On Friday Orangefield plays Liberty at 11:30 AM and Beaumont United at 4:30 PM. The final game of the tournament will be Saturday night at 7:00 PM between the Bobcats and the host West Orange-Stark Mustangs.