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By Dan Perrine
For the Record 

Mustangs looking to improve this baseball season

 

Last updated 2/27/2023 at 12:12pm

Coach Sergio Espinal is working to get the West Orange Stark Mustangs competitive this baseball season

The West Orange Stark Mustangs are putting last year's baseball season behind them. The Mustangs are working to achieve some good memories for this new season.

The Mustangs' head coach Sergio Espinal talked briefly on the 2022 baseball season at West Orange Stark. "I really don't like to talk much about last season it's behind us. I told my kids I'm not going to bring it up. Hopefully, it was a learning point for them. We did have a few bright spots, but not too many. Tyrone Wilson hit pretty well, he also pitched pretty well, and also Grayson Gregory pitched pretty well. After that it was kind of growing pains," Espinal recapped.

West Orange Stark was young and inexperienced last year. The Mustangs did not have a single senior on the roster and very few of them had played on the varsity the previous season.

That aspect of the team has changed for the positive this year. West Orange Stark's leader and number one player is senior Tyrone Wilson who returns as a starting pitcher and shortstop.

Outfielder William Lee is a junior who did play significant innings last season and will be hitting in the four or five hole in the batting order. Senior Carlos Calana is primarily first base but will also play some third base and will do some pitching for the Mustangs. Coming out of basketball at West Orange Stark and looking pretty good is junior Christian Anderson.

Those four players have all been on the Mustangs varsity at least a couple years each. Espinal believes, "These guys should be contributing. They've been with us now for three or four years and this is their time to shine. How well they do depends on them. I'm confident in them that they're going to do well."

There are some new Mustangs that have Coach Espinal excited about seeing what they can do for the program. Two freshmen Diego Ibarra and Noah Robles will be starting immediately for West Orange Stark and should make an impact defensively and with their pitching.

Ibarra is a left-handed pitcher and first baseman. Diego has a lot of talent according to Coach Espinal.

Robles' older brother William Robles played for the Mustangs a few years ago. "Noah brings a lot of utility purposes for the Mustangs. He can play many different positions, and he is also a pitcher. Adding those two guys, Diego and Noah, to our pitching staff is going to really improve our stats and improve our situation that we've been having the last few years," Espinal promised.

Maybe the most improved player for the Mustangs since last year is junior Zach Nation who will be the starting second baseman for West Orange Stark. He has grown a little bit and put some good pounds on his frame. Espinal observed that Nation looks good at second base turning double plays, he is making good adjustments, and is actually hitting the ball pretty well.

A sophomore who played on the varsity for West Orange Stark as a freshman is Grayson Gregory. Finding the best position to use Gregory is the problem. Espinal analyzed, "Grayson has made tremendous improvement behind the plate at catcher. He really pitched well for us last year as a freshman. We really need him as a catcher and he really needs to step up a whole lot, but he's young, he's getting better. Hopefully, this year and in the years to come he'll be where we need him to be. Right now he's still growing."

Espinal is counting on Tyrone Wilson to swing a big bat for the Mustangs this year. Wilson had success last season and was the team's only .300 hitter. Continued improvement is expected from Tyrone with the bat.

William Lee, Carlos Calana, and Christian Anderson should be able to hit the ball and get on base more. Espinal said, "These are upper classmen that need to be successful for this program."

The pair of newcomers has Espinal very excited about the boost to the Mustangs' offense. "I'm so impressed with the two freshmen that I have that are definitely going to be impact players for us now and in the future. Diego Ibarra and Noah Robles are swinging the bat pretty good, they give us more depth in the lineup, and they are going to be playing," Espinal praised.

Two real negatives for West Orange Stark last season was pitching and fielding. The pitchers had difficulties throwing strikes and when they did throw strikes the opposing hitters normally put the ball in play but the Mustang fielders had problems catching the ball and throwing it to retire the batter.

This year during the scrimmages and the practices the Mustangs have made tremendous improvement defensively. Coach Espinal indicated Robles can play multiple positions and he can field well at all of them. He added Robles and Ibarra give the Mustangs so much more flexibility on defense.

Last year Espinal thought his outfield would be West Orange Stark's strongest positions but it was not. He thinks the outfielders as a group have gotten better this year. "William Lee, Christian Anderson, DJ Robledo are upper classmen that need to step up, and if they do that I think we're going to have a great defensive ball club. Right now we've been playing pretty good, hopefully we can continue, and carry it through the whole season," Espinal responded.

The Mustangs did win three out of four scrimmages in February and the defense was solid in all of them. The offense does need to pick up some and start scoring more runs. Espinal thinks making better contact with the ball, bunting, and stealing bases are needed since there really is no power right now in the Mustang bats.

Pitching for West Orange Stark has improved to the point where Espinal is confident that if the Mustangs can produce five or six runs they can win a lot of games. Espinal summarized, "Our pitching with upper classmen along with the two freshmen that we have can pitch pretty good. Diego Ibarra is a left-handed pitcher that throws pretty good. Tyrone Wilson has also done a fabulous job, and if he keeps just pounding the strike zone I think we'll be okay."

The expectation for this season at West Orange Stark is improvement. "We're going to take it one game at a time just like most coaches do. My gut feeling is that we're going to be so much better than last year. How many wins we're going to have, I don't know. We're going to go all out one game at a time, give it all we've got, and I know for sure we're a whole lot better than we were last year," Espinal concluded.

The last weekend of February the West Orange Stark Mustangs played in the Kountze Tournament. The Mustangs lost a close game 3-1 on Thursday to Tarkington. Diego Ibarra pitched six innings and did not give up an earned run. Noah Robles reached base all three times he came to bat with two singles and a walk. Carlos Calana went one for three with a single and a run batted in.

The Mustangs lost another close game on Friday 4-2 to Warren. Tyrone Wilson pitched well in the loss allowing 4 hits in 6 innings, striking out 11, walking one, and not allowing an earned run. Wilson also went two for three with a run batted in. William Lee went one for two and walked twice.

On Saturday the Mustangs split their two games defeating Hardin 11-8 before losing 5-0 to Kountze. Grayson Gregory and Noah Robles pitched well in the game against Hardin with Robles getting the win in relief. Andrew Wilson had three runs batted in and a run scored. Zach Nation was two for two with a rbi and a run scored against the Hornets. William Lee hit a double in both games.

West Orange Stark will host the Certa-Bearden Classic the first weekend in March. The Mustangs will play four games on Thursday through Saturday at Ronnie Anderson Park. The Mustangs will play at 7:00 PM on Thursday and Friday, and they will play at 4:30 PM and 7:00 PM on Saturday.

 

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