Mustangs strive for improvement during baseball season


Last updated 2/27/2024 at 10:17am

Coach Sergio Espinal of the West Orange-Stark Mustangs baseball team

Steady progress is being made in the rebuilding of the West Orange-Stark baseball program back to what it was less than a decade ago. More improvement is expected this year from the Mustang diamond devotees.

Last year in preseason West Orange-Stark won several games in tournament action. The Mustangs were winless though in the very competitive District 19-4A against teams filled with players that participate in select baseball leagues throughout the year.

"We're making tremendous progress, even though they are small steps, things are coming along well. We continue to coach and try to show the kids how to do it the right way fundamentally, the Mustangs are learning the game, they're learning how to play the game, and things are getting better but it's just taking time," Espinal confirmed.

Improvement over the last couple of seasons could carry over to this year. Espinal explained, "I think the biggest improvement this year that we'll see is probably our outfield. Christian Anderson, William Lee, and Cortez Robertson have good range, good fundamentals, and they have been working so hard. I think our top three outfielders who are all seniors have been doing a pretty good job. We went through our struggles three years ago with them, so this year they are putting the pieces together and they should all have an outstanding season."

Lee played summer baseball and continues to work out taking baseball more seriously. Espinal indicated, "William is looking forward to going to college on a baseball scholarship. I think he's got the opportunity to do it, and he's got the ability to do it. It's just a matter of time and if he turns it on to have a great year this season."

The two best returning Mustangs are both sophomores. Diego Ibarra and Noah Robles were leaders when they were freshmen last year so more is expected in their second seasons on the West Orange-Stark varsity.

Ibarra was the leader on the mound last year for WOS which makes him a key pitcher again this season and will play first base when he is not pitching. "Diego's got a good stick, and I know he's got better so he should contribute for the Mustangs tremendously," Espinal stated.

Robles has a lot of tools whether on the mound, in the infield, or at the plate. Espinal believes, "Noah should really help us in every possible way. He's a pitcher, a shortstop, an infielder, I can put him anywhere, and he swings the bat pretty well."

Senior Zach Nation is one of the team leaders. "Zach grew, got taller, got smarter, got a little stronger, so we look forward to having Zach as one of our leaders and contributors to our baseball program this year," Espinal praised.

Whether it is behind the plate as the catcher or on the mound as a pitcher Grayson Gregory of the Mustangs will be a factor for the ball club. Espinal evaluated, "Grayson has shown some sparks of getting better, and he's made some improvements. He has to continue to improve because as our catcher he has to be the leader on the field."

The are some new Mustangs who will play on the varsity for Coach Espinal. Blade Williams is a sophomore moving up from the junior varsity last season. "He's grown to a good size, right handed hitter, that plays first base and third base, will also pitch a little bit, swings the bat pretty good, also learning the game, but Blade has got a lot of potential and ability," Espinal described.

Another new face on the baseball diamond is Marcus Turner. WOS fans know Turner as the starting quarterback on the Mustang varsity football team. Turner is getting more excited about baseball, he wants to learn the game, he is coachable, so things are looking good according to Espinal concerning Marcus playing some baseball this season.

Hitting the baseball is still a work in progress at West Orange-Stark. William Lee, Diego Ibarra, Noah Robles, and Blade Williams contributed with their bats in the early games. Cortez Robertson has been swinging the bat well.

Batting first and leading off for the Mustangs will be Christian Anderson who is doing okay, but needs to make more contact with the bat on the ball to be a more ideal leadoff batter. Zach Nation likewise needs to put the ball in play more frequently with bunts, hit and run plays, move the ball around, and put his baseball skills to use.

Coach Espinal stated pitching is the name of the game. Espinal insisted the pitcher and the catcher are the two key positions in baseball that any team needs to be strong. That why is he is sometimes critical of junior catcher Grayson Gregory needing to improve at that position.

Espinal analyzed, "As far as our pitching Diego Ibarra led our team last season in just about every category as a pitcher. We look forward to having him again as the ace of the staff. Noah Robles is another pitcher that is going to contribute. The guy that's made some tremendous improvement during the preseason has been Christian Anderson. We are going to have Christian pitching a whole lot more because he's throwing the ball pretty hard and he's developed a curve ball. Grayson Gregory is another one who doesn't throw very hard but he has good command of his breaking balls, and he kind of spots his fastball. If Grayson can do that while throwing strikes and we could play good defense he'll be successful and the team will be successful."

The Mustang defense needs to back up the pitching corps. While the outfielders at WOS are seniors the infield with the exception of Zach Nation and Keythen Windom is pretty young. Noah Robles will take over at shortstop and will be backed up by Ja'Veon Rubin who is coming off an injury.

Expectations for this season are modified by recent history of baseball at West Orange-Stark. The Mustangs are still looking for their first win in district over the last few seasons.

"We might surprise some people. I think we've gotten better, how much better will be determined how the games go. I'm very confident of the improvement by the kids that are playing, and the impact that they're going to have on the team. I think they all made tremendous improvement defensively, offensively, and we'll see what happens," Espinal concluded.


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