After pandemic shortens 2020 senior-heavy season, Harvesters baseball reloads for 2021

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After the COVID-19 pandemic shortened the 2020 Pampa Harvester baseball season to 12 games, the Harvesters are left with the thought of what might of been with the nine seniors graduating.

“We were at the Bowie Tournament, won on a walk-off, didn’t play well and were mad about the game,” Head Coach Kaleb Snelgrooes said. “I told the guys, ‘It’s Friday, we’re leaving tomorrow because they are canceling the rest of the tournament. We will meet again on Tuesday for practice and get going. Then I never saw them again.’”

The Harvesters are reloading with a young crew of players, many of whom were on the Pampa Harvesters basketball team. Five of the 30 players (freshmen through varsity) have varsity level experience. 

“A lot of these freshmen played five or six games last year and then got shut down,” Snelgrooes said. “So they lost that year of playing at least JV baseball. A lot of those sophomores are ‘Welcome to varsity’ after playing five games of high school ever. A lot of the growing pains you’re used to seeing on JV, we will go through on varsity this year.”

The Harvesters perennially make deep playoff runs for baseball, which is more valuable time Pampa may be able to use to their advantage.

“We talk about during football season the teams that make really deep playoff runs, those kids get three or four weeks of practice while everyone else is off playing basketball,” Snelgrooes said. “You do that for four years, you’ve added another 10 to 12 weeks of practice. Having those playoff runs have been beneficial for us because they are getting more varsity practice that other schools haven’t been getting. It’s been huge for us.”

The four seniors on the squad are Damian Anguiano, Cayden Stout, Nolan Groomer and Jacobi Carroll. 

“Cayden Stout is our senior catcher,” Snelgrooes said. “We lost Michael Tollerson (to graduation), but Cayden has just as good of an arm and can do just as good of a job blocking. He’s got some big shoes to fill, but Cayden is putting in the work and doing a good job.”

After losing Dylan Booth, Evan Boyd and Zack Robinson on the mound, the pitching rotation will consist of Armando Miranda, Tyler Reed, Rhett Hill and Nolan Groomer.

The UIL did give teams an extra week of practice, which Snelgrooes used for pitchers and catchers.

“We needed that time to really to go over the fine details,” Snelgrooes said. “No. 1, we are behind. No. 2, we are going to be inside for three weeks, we don’t need an extra week inside. There is only so much you can do.”

Pampa was able to keep their Eastland (March 4-6) and Bowie (March 11-13) Tournaments and will host Littlefield in a double-header on Saturday Feb. 27. They will open the season on Monday, Feb. 22 at Caprock.

“We’re fortunate to have our full schedule and we are keeping our fingers crossed that it stays that way,” Snelgrooes said.

The Harvesters will play at Hodgetown on Friday, March 19. 

Canyon and Dumas are picked one-two to win District 4-4A, with Pampa picked third.

“That’s motivation, for sure,” Snelgrooes said. “We scrimmaged and played Hereford last year, they are solid. They’ve got some guys on the mound that can go. 

“You always have to consider Perryton. I don’t care what sport you’re playing Perryton, when it’s Pampa-Perryton, it’s going to be tough. Borger has a brand new coach, I don’t know much about them. But just like Perryton, Pampa-Borger is huge.”

You lose a Dalhart and gain a Canyon and Hereford, they are both good programs. You’re in a six-team district with four making the playoffs, it’s dog eat dog every night.”

With the new re-alignment, Canyon and Hereford have joined the District and now the Bi-District round has shifted south.

“It’s always tough going south,” Snelgrooes said. “Estacado (Lubbock), Levelland are the Top 2. They gained Snyder and Sweetwater, which is different. When you think South Plains Baseball, Snyder, Estacado and Levelland are who you think about.”

The Harvesters line-up tentatively will feature Sam Anguiano and Rhett Hill in the clean-up sports (No. 3 and No. 4)

“Sam will be playing third-baseman and the No. 3 hole,” Snelgrooes said. “He was the quarterback when Jack (Studebaker) went down this past (football) year. Hill is a great football player. He will be playing outfield.”

In the No. 5 and No. 6 spots will be Nolan Groomer and Tyler Reed. Hunter Dyer will be lead-off, setting the table for some stolen bases.

“I told him I don’t care if you walk, hit or get hit by a pitch, reach on error, just get on base,” Snelgrooes said. “We are going to steal second every single time.”

The Harvesters’ home stadium has 100 new seats as part of their bleacher project over the past year. Standard COVID-19 protocols are in place. 

A unique feature to this year’s schedule, games are on Tuesdays and Fridays.

“We’re going to do Tuesdays and Fridays for varsity,” Snelgrooes said. “Thursdays and Saturdays will be for JV.”

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