DENHAM SPRINGS – Denham Springs didn’t get to throw a final pitch, record one more out or take one last swing to close out its Metro League Baseball season.
Mother Nature had the final say, bringing a halt to the Yellow Jackets' summer with consecutive rain outs.
That didn’t mean coach Mark Carroll didn’t have a decent barometer on the future of his program after last year’s 21-15 record and appearance in the Class 5A state regionals.
“We think we have a shot at being pretty solid in all phases,” Carroll said of his 2019 team. “We’ve got a good group.”
Carroll got exactly one weekend in late May to see the makings of what his entire team looked like – advancing to the semifinals in their own Wooden Bat tournament.
That team had two-time Class 5A All-State selection Cade Doughty, an LSU commitment, who spent much of his summer either in Perfect Game showcase events in Georgia or pursuing a roster spot with USA Baseball’s U18 national team, which will be determined this fall.
There were a lot of moving parts to Denham Springs’ baseball team – some like new LSU-Eunice pitching commitment Jase McDonald, who played for The Chaos travel team.
Like clockwork, upon the conclusion of Metro League play each week, players packed for the weekend and joined their respective travel teams and then reconvened to resume a Metro League schedule that was 14 games in length.
“Just about whole team traveled,” Carroll said. “They all split up into all kinds of groups. They got a lot of baseball this summer. Brennan Hall played with team out of the Monroe area. When you get everybody together – all the worldly travelers – it’s a pretty solid group.”
Junior Dalton Diez was among a group of young pitchers with primarily a junior varsity background making a case to step up into Denham Springs’ varsity rotation next spring.
Diez pitched a complete-game victory in a 3-1 victory over Byrd during the Wooden Bat tournament and added a 2-hit effort in a 9-1 win over St. Amant in Metro League play.
“Guys like Hayden Sills, Brandon Kohn, Dalton Diez all had solid years in JV ball,” Carroll said. “They all threw pretty well all summer and did a good job. David Frye had the best velocity I’ve ever seen in a game against Walker. If we can stick together, make some more improvement between now and next spring, we could have a chance to have some guys we can run out there and throw pretty good for us.”
Except for center fielder Tyler Evans, who missed time with an injury, Denham Springs’ Metro League lineup play didn’t deviate very much.
Returning first team All-District 4-5A outfielder Josh Preston batted lead off and generally played center field and was joined by Matt Delaney in left and J.T. Gould in right when he wasn’t pitching.
UL-Lafayette commitment Reese Smith anchored the infield at shortstop with Hall at first, Frye at second, Noah Juan at third and either Tristan Duhe or Cade Cole behind the plate.
“We knew that bunch that was playing in the Metro League was a good, core group,” Carroll said. “I think toward the end of the league, they ran into that summer baseball wall, which is a combination of metro and travel ball. Other teams went through the same stuff.
“We got to look at a bunch of guys on the mound and see some guys that have a chance of giving us a lot of good innings next year,” Carroll said. “You also get a chance to see some things you need to work on with certain guys in their game to help them to help our team win.”
Carroll, who needs to replace five starters from his 2018 team, said the past 1½ months gave him some clarity about what next year’s team could look like.
“You have an idea of who the frontrunners could be or should be,” he said. “A lot of that will be determined by how hard they work in the fall and in the weight room,” Carroll said.
“Some guys will close that gap ahead of them because they’re going to outwork them,” Carroll continued. “That’s what you want, for them to work their tails off and compete for those spots. That’s what any coach in any program wants to happen.”