Tigers eye goal to reach postseason
Jayden Foster and the Douglas Tigers have seen some good times, and some rough ones, over the past three baseball seasons.
■ Last year, they missed an opportunity to qualify for the Northern 4A Region Tournament with a 5-3 loss at Carson on the final night of the regular season. The Tigers were 2-4 in walk-off decisions during the season, highlighted by a 7-6 win at home against Carson on the next-to-last day that kept their playoff hopes alive.
■ In 2016, the Tigers missed the playoffs by one game during a season when they lost eight games by three runs or less.
■ In 2015, they recovered from an 0-10 start to finish 8-14 in conference, only to miss a postseason berth on a tie-breaker. Six of those conference losses were decided by three runs or less.
Now, the Tigers are brimming with enthusiasm coming into a new season that begins this week at the Mike Bearman Memorial Preseason Tournament, including games today against Central Catholic (Modesto, Calif.) at 10 a.m. and Spanish Springs at 12:30 p.m. on Carson High School’s Ron McNutt Field.
And if you ask Foster, who is entering his fourth season as a starter at shortstop, there is no doubt where the Tigers want to go this spring.
“Of course, our goal going into this year is to make the playoffs,” Foster said.
Don Amaral, the Douglas program’s fourth head coach in five years, isn’t willing to settle for any close misses.
“Close doesn’t get us there,” Amaral said. “It’s like playing horseshoes. You’ve got to be in that top eight to go. We want to get into the playoffs; once you get into the playoffs, things can happen.”
One reason for the Tigers to be optimistic is a mix of seasoned veterans and talented youth.
The list of five seniors includes Blake Murray, who has signed to play baseball for Xavier University as a catcher/outfielder, Sean Dunkelman, Zach Romero, Eduardo Cabrera and Foster (honorable mention all-region in 2017).
Andrew Rangel, a junior transfer from Basic High in Henderson, was scheduled to start on the mound for Douglas in its tournament opener on Thursday at Damonte Ranch. Foster is due to pitch this morning against the traditionally strong Central Catholic Raiders.
“The ace of our staff is Foster,” Amaral said. “What’s interesting, when I was setting up our pitching rotation for this week, he said, ‘Coach, I want to pitch against the toughest team we face.’ So we’re going to throw him against Central Catholic.”
Joining Foster and Rangel in the team’s starting pitching rotation at this point is junior left-hander Elijah Hinosa, who is coming off a successful JV season.
Romero, who stands 6-foot-6, and Cabrera bring additional experience to the pitching staff.
Freshmen Matthew Goff and Chris Thacker are expected to contribute for the Tigers as pitchers and in the field.
“We’ll find out we’ve got five games in three days starting Thursday. I’m confident that our starters can give us four or five solid innings right out of the chute.”
Murray will play catcher, play some in the outfield and is expected to take over a new role as closer coming out of the bullpen. Junior third baseman Ayden Murphy is another returning starter and Dunkelman saw extensive.
Offensive production figures to be a strong point for the Tigers.
“My top six in the lineup are going to hit the ball pretty solidly,” Amaral said. “We’re going to score runs and we’re going to be aggressive on the base paths.”
The conference schedule starts next week with a two-game series against McQueen, including the Tigers’ home opener on Thursday.
Foster added that there is yet another expectation coming into the new season.
“One goal we as seniors need to have this year is to try and develop some of the younger kids going forward,” he said, “so they develop a sense of how to play Douglas baseball and they can carry it on.”