Brent Hall has developed some habits in his just over two decades leading the Houston High School baseball program. Among them is identifying a lineup early in the season and going with it.

He doesn’t have that luxury in his 21st season with the Tigers.

With a versatile roster littered with athletes, Hall said the 2019 roster features several players who can play multiple positions on the field. It’s a luxury, he said, but also a dilemma for a veteran coach who usually early in the preseason has his lineup set.

“It’s a good problem to have,” Hall said. “I’ve got to make sure that (assistant) coach (Jeff) Richardson and I are evaluating our guys and putting them in the right places for us to be successful. It will be a work in progress to try to get the right mix to be our best.”

So much so that Hall, who enters this season with 296 career wins, had his team play in a jamboree Monday at Alton to move players around the field in game action. His teams have rarely played in preseason scrimmages through the years.

{{tncms-inline alignment=”right” content=”<p class="p1" style="text-align: center;"><strong><span class="s1">HITTING</span></strong></p> <p class="p2">•Batting – .357, Castleman</p> <p class="p2">•Runs scored – 17, Jackson</p> <p class="p2">•Hits – 26, Jackson</p> <p class="p2">•Doubles – 9, Jackson</p> <p class="p2">•Triples – none</p> <p class="p2">•Home runs – 1, Wilson</p> <p class="p2">•RBIs – 17, Castleman, Jackson</p> <p class="p2">•Steals – 8, Castleman</p> <p class="p1" style="text-align: center;"><strong><span class="s1">PITCHING</span></strong></p> <p class="p2">•Wins – 2, Castleman, Jackson, Koch</p> <p class="p2"><span class="s2">•</span>Games started – 8, Jackson</p> <p class="p2">•Innings – 41.1, Jackson</p> <p class="p2">•Strikeouts – 50, Jackson</p> <p class="p2">•Strikeouts/inning – 1.5, Groff</p> <p class="p2">•ERA – 3.22, Jackson</p> <p class="p2"><span class="s2">•</span>WHIP – 1.79, Jackson</p>” id=”39d01fd9-75ec-4d6e-bbf6-2fdc669e6ca2″ style-type=”bio” title=”RETURNING STATISTICAL LEADERS” type=”relcontent” width=”half”}}

“I wanted to use that time to slide people around and see what’s working,” he said. “I like to get a lineup set and go with it. It’s just not going to work out that way with all the pieces we’ve got.”

No matter who plays where, Hall said he continues to be determined to bring winning baseball back to the program. After not experiencing a losing season until 2011, Hall’s teams have finished below .500 in six of the last eight years. The 2018 team was 7-17.

This year’s edition will be led by a pair of returning all-conference selections as underclassmen.

Junior Sterling Jackson and sophomore Alex Castleman, who hit 3-4 last year, will again hit in the heart of the lineup. The duo both hit over .350 and tied for the team lead with 17 runs batted in.

Also returning following strong offensive seasons in 2018 are .300-plus hitters Cody Allen (.313), Connor Wilson (.304) and Trevor Mitchell, who batted .412 in limited action.

Four other players – Jacob Koch, Brecken Adey, Hunter Stilley and Braedin Groff – also started in full- or part-time roles last season.

Where Hall uses the players defensively is still to be determined.

He said Allen, who played second base last year, will likely catch. Jackson and Adey will share duties at first base.

Shortstop and second base will be a combination of Wilson, Koch and Castleman. Those three, along with Groff and Mitchell, can also play third.

“We have a lot of kids neck-and-neck and very versatile,” Hall said.

There is less to be determined in the outfield, Hall said. Stilley will start in center and junior Devin Wallander will play left field. Right will be either Robbie Mortenson or freshman Wiley Sisco.

The pitching staff returns players who accounted for 110 of the 143 innings thrown last season.

Sterling Jackson

Sterling Jackson had 50 strikeouts and 3.22 ERA in 2018 to earn all-conference honors.

Jackson led the staff with 50 strikeouts and a 3.22 ERA. Groff struck out 41 in 27 innings and Castleman had a 4.20 ERA while fanning 1.4 batters per inning.

Hall said he believes the Tigers can play – and win – at a high level with the right attitudes.

“We need everyone to buy in. Will they play a spot that may not be their favorite one but will benefit the team?” he said. “We have good kids, but we have selfish tendencies. We want what’s best for us, not what’s best for the team. I’d like to see everyone involved with our program be selfless and serve one another.”

HHS opens the season Saturday against Lesterville and Naylor in the Van Buren Wood Bat Classic.

“We could win at a high level,” Hall said. “I feel more confident with these guys this year than I have in the past few years. I’m hoping we can get back to where we were several years ago.”



•Batting – .357, Castleman

•Runs scored – 17, Jackson

•Hits – 26, Jackson

•Doubles – 9, Jackson

•Triples – none

•Home runs – 1, Wilson

•RBIs – 17, Castleman, Jackson

•Steals – 8, Castleman


•Wins – 2, Castleman, Jackson, Koch

Games started – 8, Jackson

•Innings – 41.1, Jackson

•Strikeouts – 50, Jackson

•Strikeouts/inning – 1.5, Groff

•ERA – 3.22, Jackson

WHIP – 1.79, Jackson

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