Prairie View Baseball Preview
By Marq Mitcham
Bo Barton is aiming for his second straight MAIS District 6-2A baseball championship, albeit in a different uniform. After guiding Tallulah to the conference title last year, Barton has switched sides to Prairie View.
With a strong nucleus of youth, the future looks bright for the Spartans.
"We have some eighth graders who may have to play in different spots," Barton said. "We're a real young team. We have five seniors and a couple of juniors. The rest are eighth and ninth-graders."
Junior Tanner Caldwell (5-3, 2.40 ERA), a first-team All-District honoree, is expected to anchor the pitching staff after striking out 68 batters in 42 innings last season.
Also available on the all right-handed staff are seniors Auston Smith, Andrew Janes and Jacob Fortner, junior Blake Ray, freshmen Hayes Crockett and Layton Rainbolt and eighth-grader Mason Rogers.
Catcher may be the Spartans' strongest position.
A first-team All-District selection as an eighth-grader last season, Rainbolt threw out 11-of-24 base stealers. Smith was a three-time All-District 2-2A performer at Sterlington prior to transferring for his senior year.
"I feel pretty good about our catching," Barton said.
The remainder of the defensive lineup remains a mystery as several Spartans did not report until Wednesday due to the basketball playoffs.
"We have a lot of spots still open," Barton said. "We've had one group of guys coming in from 3:00-4:30 and another group coming in from 4:30-6:00. We're just now getting everybody at the same time so we can see who fits where."
Second base appears to be the only set position as freshman Connor Ouellette returns.
There are holes to fill at shortstop and first base following the departure of All-District performers Cole Bryan and Hunter Johnson.
Ray and Crockett are the first basemen, with Hunter Herring (8th) and Fortner at third. Caldwell, Smith and Rainbolt could all see time at shortstop.
Seniors Dalton Daniel, David Denton, Janes and Fortner are vying for playing time in the outfield, along with Crockett.
Barton's first goal is to qualify for the playoffs. With no power ratings system in place, the only way to qualify for postseason play is to finish in the top two in the district standings.
"The way the MAIS is set up, you can go 10-0 in pre-district, but if you don't win first or second place in district, you don't make the playoffs," Barton said. "You can go 0-10 in pre-district, but if you win first or second place, you make the playoffs. Our goal is to make the playoffs and be hot when the playoffs get here.
"It's a long, cold, wet season. The teams that make it are the teams that can withstand the adversity."
Barton likes what he has seen from the Spartans, so far.
"It's a good group of kids," Barton said. "They swing the sticks well in the cage. When you have kids who want to work, and are willing to work, that's a good place to start. I'm looking forward to the season."
Youth aside, Barton has high hopes for the upcoming season.
"We're trying to get them to bond together and play for each other, the school and the community. We want them to understand that they represent our community and our school," Barton said. "We hope to get to the playoffs and win the whole thing — that's our goal."
Prairie View opens the season Tuesday at home vs. Riverfield.