Sunday, July 15, 2007

New Texarkana College baseball coach hits the ground running

New Texarkana College baseball coach hits the ground running

Staff photo by Evan Lewis Two key players who will return from last year’s zone championship team to play for first-year head coach Will Bolt at Texarkana College are shown in action last spring against Bossier Parish Community College. Josh Gill (7) was a starting pitcher/outfielder and Dean Malthouse the starting catcher for TC.
Will Bolt hit the ground running last month, and the new Texarkana College head baseball coach has hardly slowed down.

“The last three weeks have been pretty busy,” Bolt said while taking a break from helping his wife move into their new home on Wood Street. “Coach (Justin) Sealy and I have had some long days in the office, and we’ve been bringing in a lot of kids to work out from all over Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma. With all the travel and recruiting work, it’s been a busy time.”

During most of that time Bolt, the former volunteer coach at Texas A&M, has slept on an air mattress on the floor of his assistant coach’s apartment. Sealy was Bolt’s teammate at Nebraska under Dave Van Horn.

“Justin played at Northeast Texas Community College and Nebraska and coached at Paris Junior College,” Bolt said. “Then he took my place as volunteer coach at Nebraska after I left for Texas A&M. He and I both started our Texarkana College duties as soon as we (A&M) were eliminated by Rice.”

The two have made up a lot of ground in regards to TC players eligible to return from last season, but who were left in limbo until Bolt was officially released from his A&M duties.

“The majority of those guys are coming back,” Bolt said. “I guess you would say (pitcher) Jason Chowning is probably the headliner among that group, and (designated hitter/first baseman) David Phillips and (catcher) Dean Malthouse are among the better hitters returning.”

Others in the fold from the 2007 team are outfielders Trevor Rainey and Anton Garcia, catcher Kameron Forte and outfielder/pitcher Josh Gill. Thomas Watson, an infielder/pitcher who missed much of last season with an injury, is also returning.

Among those not coming back are pitcher Josh Turner, who earned a starter’s role late in the season, and starting shortstop Anthony Ortega.

But the biggest loss was center fielder Jamie Johnson, one of the team’s top hitters.

“Jamie and I had a couple of good talks, one when he came to A&M for a visit,” Bolt said. “He was pretty set on coming back, but he was being recruited heavy by Division I schools, and Oklahoma University threw a lot of scholarship money at him. He just felt he had to take their offer.”

Bolt also followed through on the signing of Texas High first baseman David Allday and said Arkansas High’s standout catcher Lance Marvel will also honor his earlier signing.

“Allday committed to TC when Chad Massengale was the interim coach,” Bolt said. “He signed with us about two weeks ago. Marvel was in our office just the other day. He’s coming, too.”

The jury is still out on Zach Fowler, Liberty-Eylau’s outstanding pitcher/player, who signed with TC before head coach James Mansinger’s dismissal, then later orally committed to D1 Louisiana Tech.

“We still haven’t given up on Zach yet,” Bolt said. “We see him as a legitimate two-way player for us. We’ve been talking to him, and he still hasn’t signed with Tech. Until he does, we’re going to do our best to convince him Texarkana College is the place for him.”

Bolt has reached agreement with two former Texas High players and another from Atlanta, who will transfer to TC from Seminole State College in Oklahoma.

Infielder Justin Coats, twice the defensive player of the year in high school, and outfielder Jared Washington are the former THS players returning to Texarkana. Infielder/pitcher Logan Puckett is also coming from Seminole.

“The first thing all the players from last year told me is we needed a shortstop,” Bolt said. “I think Justin Coats fits the bill.”

Another prize recruit for Bolt is third baseman/pitcher Gip Hendrix of Shreveport, the Class 1A player of the year in Louisiana last year.

“He had visited some other junior colleges and small colleges, but he wanted to wait until I got to Texarkana,” Bolt said. “We worked him out, and he officially signed today (Friday).”

Bolt said his connections with both Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn and Rob Childress and Matt Deggs at Texas A&M should help with his recruiting.

“I think it’s an advantage having played for and coached with those guys,” he said. “They will let us know about guys who they might not can take, but can play for us. That should really help.”

Bolt said Brad Flanders will join his staff as volunteer coach in the fall. Flanders, who was the University of Missouri’s starting catcher for two years, will work with the Bulldogs’ pitchers and catchers.

“I will work with the hitters and pretty much everything else,” Bolt said. “Coach Sealy will work with the hitters and outfielders.”

But there’s still work to be done before the actual coaching begins.

“We’re going to keep recruiting to see if we can find one or two players who may have slipped through the cracks,” Bolt said. “We’re pretty close to having our roster set for the fall, but we’re going to keep bringing in kids so we can identify the players we want to go after.”

Even with no more new signings, Bolt thinks the Bulldogs should be in good shape to defend their Region XIV East Zone title.

“With the guys we have coming back from the championship team and the ones we’ve added who should soften the blow for the loss of key players, we expect to be able to compete,” he said.