By Tony Altobelli
Killeen Daily Herald
A new era of Killeen Kangaroo baseball gets underway on Monday after the departure of 12 seniors from last year's 11-13 squad (5-9 in District 16-4A).
Despite the huge void of veteran experience, Roo coach Mark Carranza is not dwelling on the past, but rather, looking ahead to the future.
"We've got a good nucleus of players that will provide the varsity leadership," Carranza said. "We've got four to six good core players while the rest of the guys get acclimated to varsity-level baseball."
On the mound, returning lettermen and all-district honorable mention Justin Moreno and Terance Morse will provide the 1-2 punch in the Roos' starting lineup.
"They both throw in the 80s and both have good breaking stuff," Carranza said. "If they can stay healthy, they'll be our go-to guys."
Younger players will add some relief to the staff, including Luis Rodriguez and Jordan Ramos, among others.
"During our nondistrict games and tournament games, we'll have a look at a lot of younger pitchers," Carranza said. "We're hoping to have some guys step up when called upon."
Defensively, shortstop Tim Scott, a second-team, all-district selection last year, will provide a solid glove up the middle, along with the duo of senior Ricky Bonilla and sophomore Nolan Martin at second base.
On the corners, Moreno will take first base when he's not pitching, while Brett Hansen and junior Malcom Curry will do the job at third. Freshman Kyle Morris will back up Moreno at first.
In the outfield, Rodriguez will take over in left field, Morse and sophomore Andre Crathers will patrol center and junior J.T. Jones and senior Rafael Martinez will control right.
"J.T. has started off really hitting the ball well for us," Carranza said. "He's going to be our utility-type of player who could also see some time at third."
Behind the plate, Matthew Paradise will start, with junior Ian Sibberson backing him up.
"It's going to be a back-to-basic type of team," Carranza said. "We can't rely on one guy driving in four runs every game. It's going to everyone doing their jobs, moving runners over and picking up timely hits when its their opportunity."
In the newly-formed District 16-4A, Carranza sees Hewitt Midway as the favorite. "After that, Ellison is also strong, but it's going to be a fight for a playoff spot and I think we can definitely be in that race," the KHS coach added. "We're pretty steady on defense and we've got decent pitching. If we can come through on offense and stay healthy, we'll be in good shape."
The Roos open the season on Monday at home against Shoemaker, beginning at 1 p.m.
Contact Tony Altobelli at firstname.lastname@example.org