Douglas High senior Matt Goff releases a pitch against Carson High last Thursday. Goff and the eight other Tiger seniors will have a sprint to the finish in a shortened spring season.
Photo by Ron Harpin.
Douglas High baseball coach Ryan Gonzalez has had one of the stranger introductions to a head coaching tenure, but the Tigers are back on the diamond playing live baseball this spring.
After the 2020 season came to a close in abrupt fashion, following just four games, Gonzalez and company were forced to spend another offseason to see a full workload of results.
“I thought we had great preparation leading into this game,” said Gonzalez of the Tigers’ opening day contest against Carson.
After the first four games of the 2021 campaign, the Tigers are sitting at 1-3 but have three home games to close out the second week of competition.
“I’m very confident in our team. We’ve got nine seniors that I’ve coached since they were 14 years old,” said Gonzalez.
A short, fast season
The brevity in which the 16-game spring season is going to be played will be a test for everyone involved.
After the opener against Carson, Gonzalez stated his confidence in his bullpen and ability to have a bulk of reliable arms to turn to.
Through 26 innings this season, Douglas has pitched 10 arms on the mound.
Matt Goff got the opening day starting nod for the Tigers while Chris Thacker, James Hubbard and Luke Ackermann have also started contests on the rubber.
“Chris Thacker, … I see him coming in in big games and having big moments for us,” Gonzalez said. “Luke Ackermann is another starter that I expected to get a couple innings out of each time he goes out.”
Austin Sullivan, Gabe Natividad, Justin Soto and Noah Kohbarger are a few names to expect to see coming out of the bullpen this season for the Tigers.
“I think our pitching is extremely deep. We’ve got at least four starters and another seven relievers,” Gonzalez said. “We’ve got the arms for this shortened season and this four-game (weekly) format, which I love.”
While pitching depth will be crucial, with a heavy senior class, Douglas will be looking to make as much, if not more, impact at the plate.
Through four games Thacker and Tyler Rudd are both 6-for-11 with three RBIs.
Hubbard has driven in two runs for the Tigers so far and has three extra base hits
“We’ve got a couple of guys who hit the heck out of the ball,” said Gonzalez.
Johnny Morrison, Goff and Natividad already have extra-base hits as well for Douglas.
Though he is still getting his first full season under his belt as manager of the Tigers, Gonzalez isn’t a stranger to the talent in the area.
Reno, Bishop Manogue, Reed and McQueen are all quality teams in the Class 5A Northern Region.
“My expectation is that we are a middle of the pack type of team. We are going to upset some of the bigger teams. I believe so, because we have enough guys to play a good seven-inning, 21-out game,” said Gonzalez.
Staying with a sound approach at the plate and being mentally ready to go multiple times a week will be the name of the game for the Tigers.
For the nine seniors, the 16 games will represent one final chance to play high school sports before graduation.