TEXARKANA, Texas — With a canceled World Series, the Texarkana Bulldogs have set a goal to improve each day.
The Bulldogs, who are a team of American Legion baseball, went to the regional tournament last season and were poised to make a return trip before the coronavirus pandemic caused the cancellation of the world series.
"I think they canceled the world series prematurely," Sutton said. "There is plenty of time between now and August to see what happens. I think there was still time. Our goal is to get better. If there will be fall baseball, we want to make sure the college players are in baseball condition."
Along with no world series, there will be no state tournament. It is especially unfortunate for the Bulldogs, who were going to host the state tournament this season. Texarkana will compete in the 19u Dixie state tournament and World Series.
A slew of players return from last season including Atlanta High School senior Hunter Allen. Allen is a pitcher and also plays a little outfield. Dakota Frachiseur is a left-handed pitcher originally from Horatio and is a freshman at Southern Arkansas University.
"Hunter is 6-foot-6 and has a very high ceiling," Sutton said. "He has a great fastball and a great curve ball. Dakota is probably the most dominant pitcher that we have. He throws hard and can hit 90 mph."
Ryan Galvan, a freshman at Angelina College, is a left-handed pitcher. Galvan graduated from Pleasant Grove in 2019. Cross Holder is a senior at Paul Pewitt High School and is a left-handed pitcher.
"Ryan has great moment on his pitches and is a great spot pitcher," Sutton said. "He can pretty much put the ball wherever he wants it. Cross is committed to Bossier Parish Community College. He could work up to a Division I college if he does the right thing. He has great velocity and could hit 90 mph this year."
TJ Krause is also back from a season ago. Krause plays first, third and pitches for Hooks. He will play first base for the Bulldogs. Krause is committed to SAU. Chris Lyles is back for his fifth year and played high school ball at Texas High. He is a freshman at SAU.
"TJ is one of the best all-around hitters in the area," Sutton said. "He has the ability to hit the ball to any side of the field with power. He is experienced and well trained. Chris has been a starting center fielder for the last five years. He is an all-around athletic player with speed and power."
Cooper Perry is a senior at Hughes Springs. Perry pitches, but he also plays middle infield and catches. Perry is committed to the University of Arkansas Rich Mountain in Mena, Ark. Bryson Rhodes is out of Nevada High School in Arkansas. Rhodes is an infielder and is also a right-handed pitcher. He played third base for Texarkana last year.
"We saw big improvement from Cooper over the season," Sutton said. "His velocity increased. He has a good fastball, breaking ball and change-up. Bryson has a variety of pitches and throws in the upper 80s."
Marzavin Riles, a freshman at Stephen F. Austin, graduated from Liberty-Eylau in 2019. Riles is entering his fourth year as a Bulldog. Also coming back is Brayden Ross out of Hooks, Texas. Ross pitches and plays third base. He is a freshman at Crowley Ridge College.
"Marzavin is a great all-around player and is a veteran to the team," Sutton said. "He is an athlete with power and speed."
Pleasant Grove graduate Keaton Russo catches for the Bulldogs. Russo is a freshman at Northeast Texas Community College. Kris Shumaker is a redshirt freshman at SAU and graduated from Longview High School. Shumaker is a catcher.
"In my opinion, Keaton is the best catcher in the area," Sutton said. "He is one of the keys to our team. Kris brings leadership to our team."
Chris Sutton is back and has been playing as a Bulldog for five years. Chris Sutton saw some action at shortstop for SAU this season. Connor Allred, a graduate of Texas High, did not play last season with the Bulldogs but played in 2018. Allred is a freshman the University of Texas-Dallas.
"Chris can play all nine positions on the field," Coach Sutton said. "Connor brings experience and power to the team. He is probably the most powerful hitter that we have."
Aaron Prince is a senior at Texas High and will play in the outfield. Bradley Bearden is a freshman at National Park College in Hot Springs, Ark. Bearden is a solid pitcher for the Bulldogs. Coach Sutton is still looking to fill a couple of spots on the team. Bearden and Allred are the only two players not returning from last season's squad.
Recruiting is a little different for Texarkana with the coronavirus regulations in place.
"I have a few coaches that recommend players," Coach Sutton said. "I also have some dads that help me find some players. We go to camps and showcases on our own to try and watch some kids. Since those aren't going on, we depend on the dads and college coaches to call us about perspective players."
The junior Bulldogs have a new set of coaches. Most of the coaches are from Texas A&M University-Texarkana. Michael Galvan is the head coach. Wace Forga, from A&M-Texarkana, Scott Sanders and Chris Jennings also coach.
"We had 17 of our 18 senior players from last year earn scholarships," Coach Sutton said. "We won the state tournament and went to the regional tournament last year. We finished at 33-10-1. We would have done better at regionals, but the kids were tired. We competed in seven tournaments at regionals and won six of them. We played a lot more games that we expected to play. We finished runner up at the regional tournament."
The Texarkana Bulldogs are set to start Memorial Day weekend.