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Sherman confident that it can contend

Jason Della Rosa
Herald Democrat
Sherman's Tate Bethel and the Bearcats open the season next week looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 2017.

The Sherman Bearcats are focusing on the promise of what this season can bring, both because of the new facilities it gets to call home and the strength of a roster it feels can push the program into the playoffs for the first time since 2017.

There is a mix of long-term starters at key positions and some fresh faces being added to the lineup. The Cats are hoping it all comes together as Sherman opens the season in the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Tournament on Thursday. The Bearcats play Dallas Sunset at 4 p.m. and Carrollton Creekview at 7 p.m.

“The energy is positive,” Sherman head coach Chris Anderson said. “Even with all the changes and things that we’ve had to deal with. I’m excited and I know the guys are excited. We’ve got a pretty competitive team this season.”

After two years of just missing out on the playoffs, the Bearcats lamented the fact that a year ago they wouldn’t end up having a postseason berth to chase.

Anderson’s first season leading the program came to an end just as district play started and despite a 2-10 record, Sherman was 1-0 in 10-5A action after a win over Princeton.

“Most of the guys still got a ton of experience in the summer,” Anderson said. “We’ve got a good group of kids that get work done on their own. We’ve been able to get a lot of reps in the last month.”

The Bearcats had five seniors hoping to make that breakthrough which dated back to their freshman year — catcher Ethan Bedgood, infielders Dylan Cernero, Ryan Ortiz and Cade Cole and outfielder Kylar Gentry.

One of the biggest holes comes behind the plate in replacing Bedgood, who was a four-year starter and multiple all-district selection at catcher. But there are other spots, as well as some shifts which will take place to help the program reach its goals.

“I think everybody has to carry equal weight,” Anderson said. “It’s fun to see 15 guys look at each other and know we’re all at the same level and we’re in this together.”

Senior Tate Bethel is a four-year starter at shortstop, being named first-team all-district twice and second-team all-district as a sophomore, and will also lead the pitching staff.

“He shows up every single day and the work ethic he has, it pulls everybody along,” Anderson said. “They know ‘I need to follow his lead.’”

Bethel, a Grayson signee, had the most varsity experience heading into last season but the Bearcats enter this campaign with a little more seasoning on the mound.

In addition to Bethel, a pair of juniors will get a majority of the innings. Trevor VanSant returns while Drake Dodder transferred from La Cueva High School in New Mexico.

“We’re going to have a three-headed monster as our No. 1,” Anderson said.

Seniors Gavin Wright and Nic Thomas were also options a year ago. Junior Landon Gutierrez was expected to join them again but an injury will keep him off the mound. He will contribute at designated hitter and perhaps third base by the time district play starts.

Juniors Brandon Fine and Gabe Blankenship are also in the mix for some innings.

Luke Young, who has signed with Southwestern Christian, is a two-year starter and back in right field.

Junior Logan Williams is a three-year starter and entering his second season in center field. Blankenship is also back in the outfield but is being pushed by Dodder for time in left.

Senior Matthew Shepard could also get at-bats in the outfield as well.

Senior Dylan Fine returns to Sherman after spending the past two years at East Bladen High School in North Carolina. Fine, who has signed with Friends University, will take over at first base.

When Bethel is not at short, the position will be manned by Wright and third base will probably be a rotation of sorts that initially sees Wright manning the hot corner.

Sophomore Connor Clark is slated to take over at second base but VanSant could figure in there or also at third depending on the lineup.

At catcher, Brandon Fine also returns to the program and inherits a spot that had been occupied the previous four springs by the same Bearcat behind the mask.

“I think initially that was a concern,” Anderson said. “He’s extremely competitive. He’s always wanting to learn more. He has a calming effect to him like Ethan had. He’s going to deal with the pitchers well I think.”

Thomas and Adam Young could also see some action behind the plate.

Senior Tyler Nelson and junior Landen Brand are options off the bench.

In addition to competing in tournaments at Frisco and the Collin County Classic, Sherman has sprinkled in non-district games against Pottsboro, Gunter and Durant.

Sherman will start the 10-5A schedule on March 16 and is again in a district with Denison, McKinney North, Lovejoy, Princeton and Wylie East to go with the addition of The Colony and Prosper Rock Hill.

The teams went away from the home-and-home weekly schedule and back to the traditional setup of one match-up per each half of the district slate.

Carrollton-Farmers Branch Tournament

What: Sherman vs. Dallas Sunset

When: 4 p.m. Thursday