TEXARKANA, Texas — The summer is hot and so has been the start of the baseball season for each local Bulldog team.
The American Legion Senior Texarkana Bulldogs and the Junior Bulldogs have jumped out to records of 9-2 and 8-0, respectively.
"Early preparation and experience have been the biggest factors to our success up to this point," Bulldogs head coach Kevin Sutton said. "Despite COVID-19, we were able to gather in small groups and hit the field to begin preparation for the season. Many of these guys have some college experience under their belt now as well. We have benefited from them bringing those experiences back to the team and sharing them among each other to get better."
Statically, the Senior Bulldogs are hitting .332 as a team. Marzavin Riles, Bryson Rhodes, Conner Allred and Chris Sutton are each hitting over .400.
Riles leads the team in batting average with .471, and he also leads the team with a pair of home runs.
Chris Sutton leads the team in hits with 14, Rhodes leads the team with a .583 on base percentage, and Rhodes and TJ Krause lead the team with 14 and 13 RBI, respectively.
"I'm very pleased with the team chemistry," Kevin Sutton said. "The virus put us about a month behind. Even though we worked in groups prior to the season starting once the season did start the guys pretty much picked up where they left off last year especially defensively."
In addition to offense, the Senior Bulldogs are also seeing great success on the hill. The pitchers have a combined earned run average of 2.3.
The Bulldogs' pitchers have struck out 69 batters over 65 innings pitched. Ryan Galvan leads Texarkana with a 1.80 era and a 2-0 record, followed by Dakota Frachiseur with a 1.86 ERA.
Hunter Allen leads the team in innings pitched with 15.1, and Galvan leads the team in strikeouts with 17. Cooper Perry is 2-0 with an ERA of 3.85. Cross Holder is 1-1 with an ERA of 3.85, while Bradley Bearden has thrown five innings with seven strikeouts and an ERA of 0.00.
One area that has been problematic for the Bulldogs has been injuries.
"We started with 16 players and we are currently down to 12," Kevin Sutton said. "I feel like it takes 18 players to compete in summer ball. When I lost my No. 1 pitcher, two-hole batter, clean-up batter and starting reliever, things changed. That's where we are right now. Other guys are going to have to step up play. Right now we have a few pitcher-only guys batting and playing the field; that is not a good idea.
"We need to get better at the plate. I expected the guys to be rusty for a while, but it's time to get more consistent. We are hitting well, but we can hit better and more consistently. We would love to add more players, but they have to be the right fit. Finding great players that believe in the team concept is difficult."
The most vocal leaders for the Bulldogs have been Chris Lyles, Riles, Keaton Russo, Kris Shumaker and Chris Sutton. They are also among the most experienced.
"Our leaders understand what it takes to compete and win," Coach Sutton said. "They will put in the work and lead by example. They are sharing their collegiate experience with their younger teammates. They are instilling in them what it takes to compete at the next level."
Hoping to move up to be on the senior team one day are the Junior Bulldogs. The Junior Bulldogs are hitting .390 as a team, have a total of 59 hits, 20 doubles and four triples so far.
The junior squad has an on-base percentage of .527 with a slugging percentage of .521. Ten different pitchers have combined for a 1.15 ERA with 49 strikeouts in 48.1 innings of work. Michael Galvan is the head coach.
"The coaching staff for the junior team is outstanding," Coach Sutton said. "Head coach Michael Galvan, Scott Sanders, and Chris Jennings bring many years of coaching experience from the collegiate level to the high school level to the team. Galvan was able to put together a very talented team.
"The morale and energy level of that team is superb. Those guys are playing ball and having fun. That's the way the game is meant to be played. The support from their parents and coaching staff has also been outstanding. These guys are learning how to play the game on another level especially from a mental and strategic point of view; its showing up on the field. We are so proud of those guys."