Ruston baseball opening 2023 tonight

Ruston head coach Zack Smith with his team in 2022

By Kyle Roberts

Ruston High School knew they were getting a high level talent when they hired Zack Smith to take over the reigns of the baseball program.

That was validated last season as the Bearcats put together another 20+ win season and made it to the second round of the 2022 playoffs.

Now for Smith, the job will be to continue the program momentum into this season, which begins tonight as Ruston will play host to Neville at J.C Love Field at Pat Patterson Park on the campus of Louisiana Tech University.

“We’re excited to get started,” Ruston head coach Zack Smith said. “I’m really excited about our senior class; we have 11 coming back that got a lot of experience last year. I’m looking forward to seeing how our offense pans out.”

The Bearcats will start the 2023 season mindful of some concerns on the mound as some veterans will be rehabbing injuries while some younger throwers will get some real experience quickly.

“We’ll really be watching to see how our pitching responds,” Smith said. “We got a few arms that are recovering from injuries; both past and recent. We’re going to have to depend on some young pitchers to log in some innings for us through the tournament schedule, and hopefully, those arms get back to health later on so we can actually get them going for us.”

Two pictures on the roster this season have already signed to play collegiately with Cade Patterson headed to Louisiana Tech while J.R. Tollett will head down south to UL-Lafayette.

Smith highlighted other returning seniors, including dual-sport athlete Dyson Fields, coming off an historic career at running back for the football squad, Justin Szymanski, Wade Crawford, Bryant Bennett, Chase Clendenen, and RJ Brown.

“Our older guys are hitting the baseball really well right now,” Smith said. “I think they’ve gotten a lot stronger in the weight room. Our strength coach, Frazier Hogan, has done an awesome job of getting them ready.”

From a schedule perspective Smith acknowledged that he upped the competition level for the 2023 season (which has become the norm for all Ruston sports) to help prepare the team for post-season play.

“This year’s schedule is a lot tougher than last year, and I did that on purpose,” Smith said. “I thought last year’s schedule at the end of the year didn’t prepare us for the playoffs. I want to face more 5A and state champion teams this season, such as Calvary Baptist and Oak Grove. I want to increase the competitiveness throughout the whole schedule this year.”

Ruston will start district play Thursday, March 30, at home against West Ouachita, and will see 2022 state champion West Monroe for a pair of games at the end of April to close out district play.

The full schedule is listed below.