Looking at the final District 4-4A standings, the improvements the Denton baseball team made were fairly marginal.
Last season, Denton went winless in 12 district games. This year, the Broncos only managed a 1-11 record in district play, finishing 9-17 overall.
But in Glen Harrison’s second year as head coach, the Broncos have made plenty of strides to move away from their recent struggles. Denton improved its fielding percentage and batting average while almost cutting its ERA in half.
The only obstacle Denton couldn’t abolish was the ability to win close games. The Broncos were 0-6 in games decided by two runs or less.
“It always seems like we have one bad inning, one inning where they have a big inning and we can’t counter,” Harrison said. “That was pretty much the difference in every district contest, with the exception of a couple games.”
In Denton’s first district game, the Broncos blew a seventh-inning lead against Wichita Falls. Denton responded with a 4-0 win over Little Elm. From there, the Broncos were unable to pick up the wins necessary for a playoff berth.
Offensive woes plagued Denton during district play. The team raised its batting average by .019 from last season to .250, but the Broncos only batted .181 in district.
Zach Wilson, Steven Natividad, Mark Johnson, Nick Carrell and Carlos Fleury all finished the year with an average over .275. Only Johnson’s .342 average cleared the benchmark in 4-4A play.
Despite all the statistical improvements made in 2012, the psychological change in the way the Broncos approached the season was the biggest transformation.
“They wanted to win, where in the past, from what I’ve heard from [the team], they were just playing because it was just something to do and something to do that was fun,” Wilson said. “Winning makes it fun, but we lost as a team and we took that to heart. I think we learned that losing isn’t fun, and it’s not fun to come to practice when you lost the day before.”
Wilson joined Denton after playing at Liberty Christian. He led the Broncos in batting average (.426), and went 2-4 on the mound despite having a 2.57 ERA in 49 innings of work. Wilson became academically ineligible right before the season ended and has signed with Dallas Christian pending his graduation.
Terrance Lucas said the team was pleased in the way it stayed in ballgames all season long. Lucas said the team never got depressed as the losses mounted, and the outfielder echoed Wilson's sentiments.
“Last year I don’t think we took it serious,” Lucas said. “This year, everybody was willing to work and was really dedicated.”
Harrison acknowledged that the process it takes to turn around a program doesn’t happen quickly. But after two seasons, the Broncos are starting to believe and apply Harrison’s teaching.
“Our guys, they’re buying into what we’re doing in and out of the locker room, what they’re doing out in the public and on the field,” Harrison said. “It takes a little while to get that philosophy interjected into the system. They are getting it.”
The Broncos are losing nine seniors and following realignment, Denton faces the challenge of having new teams like Guyer and Trophy Club Byron Nelson enter District 5-4A, the Broncos’ future home.
Denton is also losing Wilson, Litchen and Carrell, the top three pitchers in their rotation. Harrison said he expects the likes of Roman Arnold, John Collins, Josh Chavez and a few others to help fill the vacancies.
Denton’s junior varsity squad had the best district record this season, a sign of good things in the future. For Harrison, hope abounds in the experienced players returning next year and the players’ desire to improve.
“It’s a good baseball core that loves the game, and that’s what I’m excited about,” Harrison said.“They’re going to work hard, and they love playing the game.”
BEN BABY can be reached 940-566-6869. His e-mail address is email@example.com .
BY THE NUMBERS
Denton’s changes from last season: