For their very first home stand of the 2019 baseball season, the Angelina College Roadrunners are going to face the McLennan College Highlanders, ranked No. 2 nationally in pre-season polls.
Such a scenario could feel a little intimidating for the home except for one factor: These Roadrunners have been there, done that.
This year’s Roadrunner club features a bevy of returning starters, many of whom earned big-time honors in 2018. In fact, AC placed seven players – Sean Bergeron, Taylor Meaux, Tanner Sembera, Dylan Murphy, Dillon Nesbit, Lance Lusk and Jacob Mead – on the JUCO All-Star team back in the fall. Their presence marked the biggest contingent of ‘Runners to make the team in head coach Jeff Livin’s 22-year tenure.
So instead of worrying about how a young squad might perform against a ranked team, Livin instead is simply hoping for help in external matters.
“Hopefully, we can expect some sunshine and a dry field on Saturday,” Livin said. “That’s been our biggest obstacle so far. In the limited amount of time we’ve been able to see the team in action, I really like what we’ve got going. It seems like we’re solid, and we’ve improved in a lot of areas.
“I just can’t help but feel we’ve missed some opportunities to work on some the game’s finer points, but the bad weather wasn’t exclusive to Lufkin. Everybody’s been dealing with it. It’s challenging for any coach who likes to have everything prepared in advance.”
Poor weather even managed to push back the original starting date. The two teams were supposed to meet on Friday, but recent heavy rains required an extra day of field-drying time.
Some of those veteran players hitting the field in Saturday’s doubleheader include the entirety of Livin’s starting pitching staff from ’18: Bergeron, Mead and Lusk. Tanner Sembera, who played sparingly last year, has shown the coaches he’s ready to make an even bigger impact.
“Tanner was a mid-week starter last year,” Livin said. “He was coming off some arm issues, so we really paced him, and he just exploded in the fall.”
Chandler Reece, one of the first guys called out of the bullpen in 2018, is back, along with J.T. Migues.
AC has veterans in other key spots: Catchers Dillon Nesbit and Sam Gotlieb are back for another year behind the plate – “That’s always reassuring” – and third baseman Dylan Murphy and Taylor Meaux still anchor the corners. There’ll be new faces in the middle infield, including Trent Brown at shortstop; and guys like Euro Diaz and Drake Pierson to lend experience in the outfield.
Added to the pitching staff is a group of talented freshmen, including Drew Shifflet, Wesley Gafford and Dalton Roblin, among others. Other freshmen pushing for playing time include JoJo Munoz, who Livin said “has been our hottest hitter all spring.”
“It’s kind of like, ‘Hey, sophomores, we love you, but we’ve got to win some games’,” Livin said. “We foster that type of competition, and it’s good to see all our guys responding to it. It’s going to make us a good ball club.”
The lineups may change throughout the season. They usually do. For now, all that matters is it’s time to play ball.
“I think the guys are just ready to get out and start playing, and they’re not really worried about who the opponent is,” Livin said. “They’re more excited about showing what they can do than they are worried about what someone else can do.”
First pitch for Saturday’s doubleheader is at 1 p.m. at Roadrunner Field at the Larry Phillips Family Sports Complex.
The e-mail address for AC’s Sports Information Director is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sports Information Director Gary Stallard, who also serves as a Liberal Arts Instructor, begins his eleventh season with Angelina College. Following a career as a U.S. Marine, Stallard completed his bachelor’s degree at Stephen F. Austin University, where he majored in English and Journalism. For more than 16 years, he has worked as a sports writer/columnist/photographer for the Lufkin Daily News; he continues to contribute free-lance articles on occasion. Stallard has won several awards for writing, including the Golden Hoops Award for basketball writing in 2003, Regional Sports Writer of the Year in 2004, and the Texas Press Association’s first-place award for column writing in 2007 and in 2014. He has also done basketball, football and baseball radio and live streaming play-by- play and color commentary for an ESPN affiliate. Currently Stallard serves as play-by-play broadcaster for AC basketball, baseball and softball games.
Prior to arriving at Angelina College, Stallard taught English at Lufkin High School for four years. He currently teaches Developmental Writing classes at AC. He and his wife Susan live in Lufkin.
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