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Livingston squad makes it two in a row

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071722 11U world seriesCoaches for Livingston 11U are (back row, left to right) Kevin Smith, Shannon Goins and Andrew Haynes. The players (middle row, left to right) are Colton Shelby, Jax Ruiz, Cade Randolph, Ezekiel Angel, Paxton Drake, Brayden Goins, (front row, left to right) Mikey Murphy, Jake Young, Bentley Campos-Jernigan, Braxon Smith, Ryder Surrency and Aiden Haynes.

By Brian Besch
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For the second consecutive season, the Livingston 11U boys have earned a state championship and are off to the Dixie League World Series.

“We had to go through district, and then we had to go through state,” Coach Shannon Goins said of the team. “It was a double elimination tournament. In the district round, there were several brackets. In our particular bracket there were only four teams in it.”

At the state level, the group from Livingston defeated Panola to advance to the ultimate goal.

“It was tougher this year, because Panola actually beat us in one of the bracket play games,” Goins said. “That put us in a three-way tie, because Panola had a loss, we had a loss, and Nacogdoches at a loss. Nacogdoches and Panola had to play each other to see who would play us in the championship.”

Livingston will represent the state in Monroe, Louisiana, which will host the final games this season.

Last year, most of the same group also advanced to the Dixie League World Series.

“They are a good group of boys,” Goins said. “They work hard, they come to practice, they want to get better and like to give 100% during the games. They are trying to get better at pitching and hitting and fielding — whatever it takes to allow them to win games. They understand the game and they understand what they need to do. They’ve played a lot of baseball, so they understand what it takes to win.”

Goins said the team has a large and dependable staff of pitchers that can give the team an edge in tournaments.
“That allows for rest periods, because there are pitch counts that you have to follow with a number you can throw per day or per tournament. All of that plays a factor in pitch counts. Because we have so many pitchers, we can still follow that guideline, but it still may be a few (extra) days until that kid has to pitch again. At 11 years old, they’re going to struggle at times hitting the strike zone or just have an off day, but one of our strong points is that we have a lot of pitching. They work hard on it, as well as all aspects of the game.” 

Along with Goins, the coaching staff includes Kevin Smith and Andrew Haynes. The players are Colton Shelby, Jax Ruiz, Cade Randolph, Ezekiel Angel, Paxton Drake, Brayden Goins, Mikey Murphy, Jake Young, Bentley Campos-Jernigan, Braxon Smith Ryder Surrency and Aiden Haynes.

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Onalaska youth relying on hard work

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071722 6U world seriesCoaches (back row, left to right) for Onalaska 6U are Paige Cowart, Amanda Williamson, Wendy Wacker and Alan Wacker. The players are (middle row, left to right) Whitten Hodge, Saydee Reeves, Avery Cowart, Layla Williamson, River Golson, Morgan McCool, (front row, left to right) Skylar Smith, Kenzie Purcell, Keena De La Cerda, Avie Burks and Leslie Williamson.

By Brian Besch
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They are the best in Texas. The Onalaska 6U group of four-, five- and six-year-olds have captured the Sweetees X-play state championship and will move on to the World Series.

“After the regular season, we form an All-Star team. This team is the All-Star team and we just won the state tournament for our division,” head coach Amanda Williamson explained. “Now, we move on to the World Series and it is in Louisiana on July 29 through Aug. 4.”

The Onalaska team will represent the Lone Star State in Tioga, Louisiana. To win the state tournament, the local softballers defeated a squad from Central, Texas.

“They work their booty off,” Williamson said. “They don’t just go out and play; we have practice anywhere from two to three times per week and we practice in the heat of the day. That way, they are really used to the heat. They are constantly working. We still had the tee in the state tournament, but in the World Series there are no tees. It is strictly coach-pitch. We did coach-pitch during the season, but after three coach-pitches, they got to go to the tee.”

Williams credits the team’s work into our practices to winning the lengthy contest. In the title game for state, the team from Onalaska won a three-hour marathon by a score of 32-22 in five innings. It was highlighted by a home run by Avery Cowart.

Coaces in addition to Williamson are Paige Cowart, Wendy Wacker and Alan Wacker. The players are Cowart, Whitten Hodge, Saydee Reeves, Layla Williamson, River Golson, Morgan McCool, Skylar Smith, Kenzie Purcell, Keena De La Cerda, Avie Burks and Leslie Williamson.

“I want them to win and I want them to do good,” the coach said. “The night before the state tournament, I did not sleep at all.”

Once in Louisiana, seven other teams will compete with the Onalaska girls, with their first game Saturday, July 30 in a double elimination tournament.

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Onalaska girls under new leadership

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070322 new girs bb coachNew girls basketball coach Doug Boone keeps score as the girls close Monday’s practice session with a game.

By Brian Besch
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Doug Boone has been at Onalaska only two weeks, but the girls offseason basketball program has been in full swing since his arrival. In from Slaton, a short drive southeast of Lubbock, Boone is in his 30th year of education. Many of those seasons were spent in East Texas and Central Texas.

“My son graduated from high school last year, so my wife and I kind of had that freedom,” Boone said of his latest move. “My oldest daughter has two daughters and we didn’t expect her to have another one until three or four years down the road, but we were wrong. We got a FaceTime surprise and she is having our third granddaughter.”

Boone and his wife are both familiar with East Texas, both from the Lufkin area. The grandchildren will also call that portion of the state home.

The coaching journey started three decades ago in Cleveland, then traveling to Mart, Colorado City, Lindale, Rosebud-Lott, seven years at private and Christian schools, Center and Slaton.

While location plays into his choice of Onalaska, athletic director Nick Tyerman’s program was also a draw.

“He was wanting someone that would build the program — not just basketball, but the overall girls program, which I love to do that,” Boone said. “Girls coordinator is not just a title to me, it is something I am passionate about — to help every sport be successful. The school has had some tradition and some success in the girls’ programs. It is high academic here, and that is another thing that is important to me. Having smart players, you get a chance to do a lot and achieve a lot.”

When he began coaching, Boone said football is where his heart was. He then had two daughters and realized that there was rarely a strong advocate for girls and girls sports.

070322 new bb coachDoug Boone“When I started coaching my daughters and started coaching other girls, I just really found a niche there. I have loved it and have had a lot of success because of the kids. That is why I am on this side.”

The initial impression of his new athletes is the abundance of youth.

“I think that someone told me that we may even only have two seniors in the athletic program on the girls side. Basketball-wise, I don’t think I have a single senior that I know of, unless I recruit more. It is a unique place, there is no football, so that is not where all the focus is. I am former football, so I get all that stuff. There is no reason why we shouldn’t be successful in basketball and sports like that.

“This is really pretty exciting to me, because I’ve got a really good corps of freshman girls that are coming up and I always project my eighth graders and some seventh graders. Right now, Mary Joy (Cariaga), A.J. Pinkert, Katie Boyce and Destiny (Lindley) — these girls will give us a good, older group with juniors and sophomores that will help us be solid. The great thing about these girls is they seem to be very coachable. I’ve got some young girls coming up and I don’t know how they are going to play into it, and I’ve got some girls that I’ve already talked to that weren’t playing before, but they are very athletic and I think they can help our program. It may be a completely different group of kids from what you’re used to seeing. We are strong at guard; I can tell right now, but we don’t have any really true bigs.”

Due to new UIL rules, that group is able to spend an hour in sport-specific workouts, as well as sessions for cardio and weights during the week.

Boone will also head the Lady Cats’ track and field program.

“Basketball, most especially, is a sport that you cannot get away from for very long. You have to stay connected in some way, shape or fashion. We have had fairly good numbers, but I expect better numbers next summer. At the same time, you want to let them be kids. Give me June and we will play in leagues and practice basketball, and then I back off in July for them to go have fun.”

Expect the Lady Cats to run a new system when they take the floor for the first time. Boone is a fan of the packline defense and point zone defense, popularized by college coaches Dick Bennett and Dean Smith, respectively.

“I am a constant student of the game myself. I do want to see my kids and see what I have. I love running the packline defense. Depending on my kids, I have a couple of things that I feel comfortable with as a coach that I think, depending on my personnel, I can use to be successful. I am a big Villanova fan and Jay Wright fan, so I like running a lot of his four-out stuff (on offense). It doesn’t really matter the type of personnel that I have, regardless of where I have been, that seems to always work well with whoever I’ve got.”

The coach has a history of success. When he arrived at Center, they had won two games the year before and seven games the previous three years total. The team won 19 games and made the playoffs in his first year there, the first time that school had done so in 15 or 16 years.

“I give all the credit to the kids that I’ve coached, but for the 13 years that I’ve been coaching girls, I’ve only had one losing season as a head coach and that was this past year. That was a situation where it was a rebuilding — like a five-year rebuild. I kind of anticipated that, plus we had two of the top 10 teams in the state in 3A in our district alone. It is a different animal and girls basketball in West Texas. That is why you see them in the state tournament every year. Other times, I have averaged 20 wins a year and playoffs every year. I’ve had two final four experiences and I’ve had a lot of success. I don’t expect anything less here, and I want to help them get to that next point.”

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­­­It’s Miller time in Livingston

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061922 its miller timeAfter starting the Klein Cain baseball program, David Miller will now lead the Livingston Lions.

By Brian Besch
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Livingston’s new baseball coach could easily be mistaken for someone associated with the basketball program. Coming out of the coach’s office in DeWalt Field House earlier this week, the 6-foot-10 David Miller fills a door frame quickly.

But Miller has certainly not been miscast. The former pitcher spent multiple years on the diamond professionally after successful high school and college stints.

“It was a great experience,” Miller said of his playing time. “I was fortunate enough to get drafted by the Astros in 2007 out of Stephen F. Austin.”

Miller spent two years in the Astros’ organization, a year with Toronto’s and a few weeks hurling for Miami’s. He reached the High A level for a few days, spending most of his timein short-season Class A ball. From there, he played some Independent League ball and in Australia.

“When I got drafted, I had 36 hours left, so I had to go back and I kind of felt like Billy Madison a little bit, going back to school and on campus. I definitely had a different perspective on it at 26 when I was going back to school than I had at 21. I got to work with (now-Texas State pitching coach) Chad Massengale, who was the pitching coach there. In 2013, I finished up my master’s degree and I had to find something that would pay a little bit.

“I actually talked to Coach Vanover to see if he knew of anybody looking for a baseball guy. He said, ‘Yeah, we are.’ He was at Tomball Memorial at the time. I had never lived in Houston in my life and all of the sudden, I don’t know a single person down there and ended up down there for four years. Then, Klein Cain was opening up and I put in for the head baseball job there and was fortunate enough to get that job.”

There is a connection between an athlete Miller coached for the past four years and a recent Livingston graduate. Cain star outfielder Trent Baker will soon be the roommate of Damian Ruiz at Houston Baptist University.

The Fort Worth native led Cain to bi-district finalist finishes in each of the past two years. After five years at the school, Miller and his wife decided it was time to move out of Houston.

“It was a situation where Coach Vanover reached out to me and told my wife and I that he wanted us to come up and wanted us to see (Livingston). They were looking for a new head baseball coach, so we came up. We actually went and watched them when they played Sealy. That is a big move, it is not like going from Tomball to Magnolia. It is over an hour commute, so we had to make sure we wanted to do this. They showed us around and we met a bunch of people. We went to the game and Livingston beat Sealy and it was the environment that we felt like would be good.

“The community came out and came out in a big way. There was a good crowd. I am almost 7-foot tall, so I tried to be as incognito as I could. We just kind of wanted to see everything. They were extremely supportive for the team, and they were loud and intense. They were into it, and it had a feel of ‘This is what we want.’ Our son is about to be five and this is a community that we want our son to grow up in. He will begin kindergarten this year.”

Vanover and Miller’s father, Shott Miller, coached together at the old Beaumont French High School, winning a football state championship together in 1984. Shott was the head baseball coach there for 10 years, getting out of coaching and moving the family to Fort Worth soon after Miller was born during that championship season.

Miller will also coach football, where he has been a wide receivers coach in the past.
He is now working with all athletes in Livingston’s F.A.S.S.T. Camp. He estimates an average of around 18 students from the baseball squad that have come out for skill work, a handful of which have been out every day.

“I know we are returning a lot of guys and I think we only graduated three seniors,” Miller said. “We’ve got a lot of guys with experience coming back. I like the way they played. They fought and got after it and the kids seemed intense. They seemed locked in and were playing for each other. I am excited to see what we can do, and ready to get these guys lifting and as strong as we possibly can. That is something that we have had a lot of success with the past five years. I have already told the guys that I believe in the weight room and that we are going to lift and be strong. The potential to be extremely successful is here.”

The new coach sees himself as someone who emphasizes pitching and defense, saying those two components give teams a chance to win any game.

“Right now I am just seeing what we’ve got. You have to adapt to the kids that you have. If you don’t have a bunch of good hitters, but you’ve got some great arms and you can play defense, you prepare your guys to win a lot of one-run and two-run ball games. If you’ve got guys that can swing it but can’t play defensively, you’re just going to have to score more than they do. A lot of that will come when I see them out there and we will adjust. There are some things that we can do depending on what we have. We’ve got some guys that are going to have to step up. Guys that maybe they didn’t lean on as much last year are going to be leaned on more this year. We have to find some guys that will step up and that is the guys we are going to roll with.”

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All-District Softball

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061622 livingston softballThese Livingston Lady Lions were chosen as part of the 21-4A All-District team. 1st Team All-District Jaycee Knighton - SO 2nd Team All-District Allison Lytle - SO Baylee Yantes - SO Honorable Mention Janae Bland - JR Brianna Nelson - FR Carrie Parker - SR

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