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HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL: Odessa High enters 2020 season with plenty of new faces - Odessa American: Sports

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HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL: Odessa High enters 2020 season with plenty of new faces

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Posted: Monday, February 24, 2020 8:32 pm

A new season brings plenty of changes but Odessa High baseball coach Josh Hulin says that this is the most change that he’s seen entering his seventh season as head coach of the Bronchos.

Odessa High enters the 2020 season needing to replace several starters in the batting order as well as an entire pitching rotation.

That means there are plenty of new faces set to take the field for the Bronchos. The biggest challenge for Hulin, however, is trying to figure out where everyone is going to line up.

“We’ve got a lot of spots that are being competed for right now,” he said. “I’m glad that we don’t have to play a district game for another four weeks because we have a lot to figure out.”

Hulin is trying to find the right combination that can help the Bronchos get back to the postseason once again.

Odessa High ended last year with a flurry, winning 10 of its last 15 games and advancing four rounds deep in the postseason before falling to eventual Class 6A state champion Southlake Carroll at Globe Life Park in Arlington.

It was the longest Bronchos’ postseason run in a decade and while Hulin recognizes and appreciates how last year ended, the focus is set on how this year’s Odessa High team will fare.  

“The only goal that we talk about every day is that we have to get better,” Hulin said. “Last year’s run was a lot of fun but that’s over. It’s a brand new year and that season isn’t going to win any games for us this year.”

One of the biggest areas of concern for Hulin is on the mound.

Pitchers Cristian Baeza, Bobby Salinas and Nick Arenivas are among those that have graduated. Hulin said that every pitcher who saw time in the postseason was a senior and that puts the Bronchos at a bit of a disadvantage. 

As Odessa High starts the season Thurday at the Liberty Hill Tournament, Hulin’s goal is to see who emerges as a dependable option.

“It’s really strange to be going into a season where you can’t really identify the top five guys,” he said. “We have 12 guys that we plan to throw this weekend and any one of those guys can be the guy for us.”

Hulin is taking that same approach at the plate.

“We have to find our identity and look forward to figuring out the new guys,” he said. 

Among the returners coming back for the Bronchos is senior shortstop and UTRGV signee Gibrian Pena.

Pena is one of five regular starters who started and played in nearly every game last season for the Bronchos. The others are seniors Hervey Nieto at first base, catcher Pilar Ramirez and outfielder Zach Attaway, along with junior infielder Gabriel Avila.

“We have to help take the younger guys under our wing,” Pena said. “We have to teach them what we know and show them how it is and how we can improve from there.”

Nieto is taking a similar approach.

“We’ve always tried to be leaders but there’s definitely more of a responsibility for us as seniors,” Nieto said. “Those younger guys are going to be looking up to us.”

The Bronchos will get an early test against Brownwood and host Liberty Hill to kick off a stretch of six games in three days. 

Odessa High will continue the early season with the Tournament of Champions in Midland the following weekend before heading to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex for the Princeton Tournament.  

Those games will give Hulin a better idea of where his team stands by the time District 2-6A play opens up Mar. 19 at Wolfforth Frenship. Hulin is embracing the challenge.

“I like what we’ve done so far and we’re heading in a good direction,” he said. “There are just a lot of facets that we’re still not great at.

“The only way to get better is to just play ball and playing these games is going to help us a lot.”

>> Follow Tony Venegas on Twitter at @OA_TVenegas

Odessa, TX

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