Despite a nine-year postseason drought, there’s a lot of optimism for the new season of Plano East baseball.
With several returning starters from last season, including key young players who suffered through some growing pains last season. While the team finished 3-11 in the competitive District 6-6A, second-year head coach Michael Martinez thinks this could be the year the team makes the playoffs.
“We expect to make the playoffs,” Martinez said. “We have as good of a team this year I would say since we made the playoffs in 2014. We have four power five, Division I commit and seven returning starters of the eight position players and every one of our starters coming back. We’ve gone from a young team last year to one of the most veteran teams in the district.”
With the amount of returning players on the roster, particularly the younger players from last season, the team is eager to see how they’ve adjusted to life as a varsity baseball player. The Panthers lost several close ballgames last season, something to build upon in 2023.
“Going from a freshman or junior varsity player to the varsity level is really difficult,” Martinez said. “It’s louder, more intense and really difficult to manage for some young players and hard to help them adjust to the speed of the game. The adjustments made this season as they’ve gotten more reps will go a long way for us.”
Leading the way for the Panthers is one of the deepest and most talented pitching rotations in the area. Their top five arms, Brayden Bergman, Drew Devillier, Grant Origer, Aythan Hornung and Drew Conner all have experience and talent on the mound. Bergman is committed to Baylor, Devillier to TCU and Origer to Texas Tech, as they lead a strong rotation of arms that will all get starts throughout the season.
“Any one of those five in any district game I feel really good about starting or coming in for relief for us,” Martinez said. “We have a lot of arms and feel great about the talent at our disposal.”
With several options to go to on the mound, Martinez said he wants all five players to log plenty of innings between now and district play. He’s not looking for his two starters, as all his players can step in and set East up for success.
“The depth in arms really helps in tournament play because it’s a lot of games in a short period,” Martinez said. “One of the good things about that depth is I don’t feel like I have to ride two guys in the district. I want to be able to keep our guys fresh and ready and not have to overthrow any one pitcher. We have a lot of guys who can log innings and if we make the playoffs, we should be one of the freshest teams heading into that tournament. We can also cover for an injury if needed because everyone could be an ace pitcher.
When Devillier and Bergman are not on the mound, they’re in the outfield flanking Dasan Harris. The senior centerfielder and Oklahoma signee was one of the Panthers’ top players last seasons. Making the leap from JV to varsity in his junior season, Harris had a seamless transition and hopes to build upon it ahead of his senior year.
“He is hands down the hardest worker in our program,” Martinez said. “He has exceptional talent and athleticism but it’s also a great influence for several of younger players who watch him approach the game and learn to play and practice the right way.”
Plano East opens the season on the road against Frisco Independence, before traveling to Wylie East for their opening tournament of the regular season.
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