A year ago, Sherman’s baseball team started district play poorly, only to go on a tear in the second half of the schedule and put themselves in position to make the playoffs.

A year ago, Sherman’s baseball team started district play poorly, only to go on a tear in the second half of the schedule and put themselves in position to make the playoffs.

Even though the Bearcats’ amazing run ended in a play-in loss to Royse City, there’s plenty of carry-over as they embark on a new campaign, led by the veteran battery of college-bound seniors Case Rolen and Will Olson.

With just about the whole crew back, excitement is rising right alongside the late-February thermometer.

"We feel pretty good about it," Sherman head coach Jason Wright said. "Our first goal is to get a better start to district. We’re going to try to build up to that so we don’t bury ourselves. We used so much energy climbing back up (last year), we ran out of gas in the end."

The season opens for the Bearcats on Thursday afternoon in the Russell Athletic-Diamond North Texas Classic against Rowlett and Cedar Park Vista Ridge in Argyle. They will also take on Byron Nelson and Burleson Centennial on Friday in Trophy Club, and McKinney and Allen on Saturday in Denton.

"That’s five schools right there that are either 5A or going to be 6A next year," Wright said. "We’ll get tested this weekend. We’d better bring our big-boy pants, or else we’ll be coming home sad on Saturday."

Only three players graduated from last year’s team, which struggled to a 1-7 district start before going on an improbable run of five wins in six games to tie for fourth place in 13-4A at the end of the regular season.

Leading the way are Rolen, a right-handed pitcher who signed with Dallas Baptist, and Olson, a catcher who inked with Texas-Arlington. Both are four-year starters.

"Those guys have meant so much to our baseball program over the last four years," Wright said. "We sat down as a team and we said these two aren’t leaving without a playoff series under their belts. To see how much they’ve grown in four years is remarkable. They’re full-grown men."

Rolen, who no-hit Royse City last year, will be Sherman’s No. 1 starting pitcher, and Wright is hoping to lighten Rolen’s responsibilities when not pitching by finding other players to play positions, which would free Rolen up to be a designated hitter and play first or third base only if needed.

Elsewhere on the diamond, senior returnee Kyle Maxwell will take over at shortstop, with junior Austin Atherton getting playing time once again at first. Junior Treyson Jones, a late-season call-up to varsity last spring, will hold down a corner outfield spot with twin brother Tyson Jones in the other corner. Drew Rome, a junior, is hobbled by an injury, which opens up a spot in centerfield for freshman Brayshon Savage.

In fact, a number of freshmen may break into the Bearcats’ starting lineup. David Bedgood is challenging for the shortstop position, along with Jack LeCrone at first and Dylan Tinajero on the mound.

"And you thought we were young last year," Wright said. "Some of these freshmen will play. They’re talented, and we’ll throw them out there."

Other new faces include junior Grant Jones at third base and either Dean Gilbert or Damian Mata at second.

"We’ve got depth this year," Wright added. "There’s competition going on in practice every day. I can’t guarantee you we’ll have the same lineup every day. It’s made us better."

Senior Josh Logston, who played third base last season, is moving to the mound full-time and is penciled in as a starter for Sherman, although Wright said Bedgood has a chance to challenge for the No. 2 role behind Rolen. Senior Cody Parks has starting experience, and Tyson Jones and Tinajero could be called upon as well to pitch.

The 14-game district schedule, plus a change in number of games allowed by the University Interscholastic League, doesn’t leave the Bearcats with much time to get ready.

The Bearcats will host the Sherman Invitational Feb. 27-March 1 before jumping quickly into District 13-4A play March 4 at McKinney North. So the Cats will, in some ways, be preparing on the fly.

"We’ll have six games this weekend and six next weekend, and that’s it," Wright said. "We lost a scrimmage because of the weather, and that’s 14 innings to make an impression. We haven’t been outside but once in about 10 days before Friday because of the weather. We got out on Wednesday, and that’s it."

The Cats will also play in the Crowley tournament March 6-8 at the invitation of former Bearcat skipper Art Senato, who now coaches at North Crowley.

"It’s always good to see Coach Senato because he’s such a good friend of mine," Wright said. "He called and said he had a spot. We’re excited about that. It’s an overnight trip, and those are good because of the bonding we get as a team. It’s a chance to just play baseball and have fun."