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Ace pitcher ready to lead baseball to ninth straight playoff berth

Ace pitcher Shea Walker hurls a fastball during action this past year.

John Cernohaus

Ace pitcher Shea Walker hurls a fastball during action this past year.

Jackson Posey, Staff Writer

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On the heels of several seasons that never quite felt successful enough, baseball is ready to lace up the cleats and rise to new heights in 2019. Success has come easily for Coach Chad Koehl’s squad, but after a disappointing first round sweep at the hands of Clark (10-0, 5-3), the team is left hunting for answers.

Winning is more than a tradition for baseball. It’s an expectation. Last season’s 23-9, 10-4 record was actually a step down from the year prior (24-8, 12-2), a magical season in which the team fought its way to a Game Three against Reagan in the second round. Suffice it to say that the Rattlers came out on top – the Rangers have eight straight playoff appearances, sure, but Reagan has played in state championship games in three of the past five years. But compared to Reagan, simply making the postseason doesn’t give any solace to the Rangers. Reagan’s run is impressive, to be sure, but all it does is make the Rangers hungrier.

“It does [motivate us],” said junior pitcher Shea Walker, who led the team in wins last year with seven. “We definitely could’ve went to the second round, and we didn’t like how we ended the season… We’re motivated to finish strong and continue that into the playoffs.”

Reagan’s success has had a profound impact on the team, Walker said. And they don’t like it, not one bit.

“It does [motivate us], especially with how they played against us two years ago in [the] playoffs,” he said. “I would say that didn’t settle well with us after that because it was ugly, and there wasn’t much respect. We feel extra motivated whenever we play them because we don’t want to see a team like that succeed.”

Walker is part of a pitching staff that retains many of its key contributors, including Colton Eilers (3-1). The losses of Ethan Rivera, Eric Reese and Chase Carson (combined 10-1 record) will hurt, though a young ace like Walker anchoring a rotation always helps.

The offense loses many of its big pieces, and the losses of catcher CJ Horn and third baseman Hunter Cheek (a team-high four home runs apiece) will certainly not help. But all in all, retaining 12 players from this past year’s playoff team can’t be viewed as too big of a negative. Walker and a pitching staff lookin to bounce back from a playoff berth that ended because of a horrendous 15 runs allowed over two games.

But the squad’s de facto ace isn’t worried.

“My expectations are good,” Walker said. “All the pieces are there. It’s just gotta be put together, and we’ll do great things. We’ll surprise people. We have a great chance again at district, and we hope to have a good run in [the] playoffs.”

The Rangers opened their season Feb. 21 at the Border Olympics Tournament in Laredo against Beeville Jones.

That game marked the start of a new beginning. Past failures left behind, the team can look into the future with clear eyes and baited breath, understanding their sky-high potential while acknowledging that past flameouts don’t have to define them. Failure is a result of the lack of either leadership or talent, and the Rangers lack neither. And an ace pitcher leading the way certainly can’t hurt.

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About the Writer
Jackson Posey, Staff Writer

"Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." Proverbs 12:18.

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