And the local high school teams get their winter/spring season started next Monday with the first official week or workouts.
The Heights, Waltrip, St. Thomas, and St. Pius X were all playoff participants last year and each is eying another trip to the postseason come May when the best of the best start determining this year’s state champions.
With four of the last seven TAPPS 5A state championships, including the 2017 title, the Eagles go into 2018 as one of the state’s elite teams before they even take the field.
Head coach Ryan Lousteau’s team has had it going on since he took over for Astro icon Craig Biggio after the 2011 campaign and the Eagles are coming off a 34-5 season in 2017 that saw them sweep through the TAPPS playoffs in just six games to win an amazing 24th state title in program history.
They again will be strong with at least three Division I prospects on the roster.
Senior pitcher Owen Meaney, who has signed with Texas; his top batterymate, catcher Phil Matilua, who has signed with Louisiana Tech; and senior outfielder John Griffin were all TAPPS All-State players last year and are back in search of another state championship. Junior right-handed pitcher Josh Wolff, who has verbally committed to play at Texas A & M, give the Eagles one of the best 1-2 duos in the state.
The Eagles will play the first of their four scrimmages on Tuesday, Feb. 6 when they go to Magnolia West.
St. Pius X
The Panthers have their own Division I pitcher in the fold and go into the quickly-approaching season with high hopes themselves.
Senior pitcher Matt Dillard is clearly one of the top high school pitchers in not only Texas but also the country, having recently signed his letter-of-intent to attend Sam Houston State. The Bearkats are among one of the best college programs in the nation, evidenced by them reaching an NCAA Super Regional last year before they lost a best-of-three series to eventual national champion Florida.
The Panthers will have their first scrimmage Monday, Feb. 5 when they host Santa Fe to take on the Indians. Santa Fe was the team that eliminated Waltrip from the first round of last year’s Region III-5A playoffs.
St. Pius begins the regular season Thursday, Feb. 22 when they take on Waltrip at the Father Wilson tournament at St. Thomas School.
The Rams are again expected to have a big say in who the best team in District 24-5A after they finished second last year behind Milby. The Buffaloes went 14-0 while Waltrip was just behind them and ahead of Furr and Austin, which tied for third place to put both of them in the Region III bracket.
Waltrip does have six returning starters, four of whom were first team all-District, from last year’s Bi-District team that won over 20 games.
Senior infielder Sammy Lemond and senior outfielder Coby Johnston along with sophomore Adolf Castillo and sophomore pitcher Eduardo Torres were each 24-5A first teamers in 2017.
Senior outfielder Kevin Martinez and senior catcher Christian Cherry were named all-district second team and those six players provide a good foundation for another outstanding season.
The Rams will have their first scrimmage of the year on Monday, Feb. 5 at home when they take on Houston Heights.