Bryson Schmidt and Plano are ready for a fresh start this spring.
Their start will be key.
The Reapers had a rough 6-29 2018 season, but that record was perhaps a little deceiving. Plano led in the seventh inning of seven of its losses. An eighth loss, the Reapers led by 10 runs in.
So with five starters back – led by its top two pitchers, Schmidt and Michael Bruell and all-area utility Riley Stevenson – bolstered by two huge additions, the Reapers are hopeful for a reversal in fortunes.
Schmidt sounds confident.
"I predict, from this day, that we will get to 20 wins," said Schmidt, an Augustana baseball and football commit.
Plano coach John Parpet, in his last season before heading to Metea Valley as its football coach, feels this is the most talent in the program since he's been here. The Reapers last spring did beat eventual Class 2A state champ Spring Valley Hall, and played six teams in regional finals, three of them champs.
The Reapers will be busy early this spring. They're scheduled to play 21 games over the first 18 days of the season.
"If we get off to a good start, I'm very interested to see where this could go," Parpet said.
Parpet likes his chances when Schmidt and Bruell are on the mound. How things shape up behind them, with youth on the mound, will be a significant bellwether to Plano's season.
"We go one to nine in our order, with our two top dogs, we can play with anybody in our league and on our schedule," Parpet said. "If our freshmen and sophomores can be competitive on the mound our pitching can be very good. They can't have any short outings. If they don't have the confidence in can snowball."
Bruell, a junior, was as consistent as any Plano pitcher last spring. Schmidt looks for improvement this spring with the development of a changeup, which Parpet thinks is his best pitch.
"I started working on it, and as I gripped it coach said throw it like a fastball, I started throwing it and the pitches dropped two feet," Schmidt said. "It's sort of a pitch I developed so I'm not always a two-pitch pitcher."
In the field, senior Riley Stevenson returns after hitting .370 with a .470 on-base percentage in his first year at Plano after moving from Bartlett. Another transfer, junior shortstop Patrick Johnson, arrived from tradition-rich Plainfield North this year and could be just as impactful.
"Patrick, coming from a great program, he can do some good things in the field and can put the ball on the bat," Schmidt said.
Parpet is just as excited about freshman Mason Accidentale, who hit .500 during Plano's 12-2 summer.
"He's 5-foot-9, 140 pounds, the kid can just play ball," Parpet said.
Other returning starters include senior first baseman Dalton Cline, junior outfielder/pitcher Eli Gonzalez and senior outfielder Art Padilla, who will miss half the season with a torn MCL. Other newcomers to the group include sophomore pitcher/first baseman/outfielder Alex Velazquez, junior outfielder Nathan Jernigan and freshman pitcher Sean Earwood. Velazquez and Earwood are among those who will line up behind Schmidt and Bruell in the Reapers' pitching staff.
"I feel like we have the guys that want to win, guys that are really competitive," Schmidt said. "If we get off to a great start, it will boost the confidence of some of our young guys."