It sometimes seems difficult to get an early read on the baseball season, because the slate begins amid a ton of spring sports traffic, not to mention the closing of the basketball campaign. Then, too, the fact that the city teams generally are on the road quite a lot to start off, and it’s hard to see what is what until district rolls around.
One thing is for certain though, that a season of transition is assuredly ahead. Some of the best ballplayers in history are now plying their trade at the next level, including Carlo Servin and Saul Garza of North. Add in the fact that the Coogs are working with an interim manager after Damien Gonzalez left to take over the football program and it is clear that North – at least in the early going – is in for some turbulence.
The Coogs started 0-4-1 heading into a Sharyland tournament, the Hardball Classic, and did so without one of the leading candidates to try and replace the departed stars, outfielder-pitcher Argelio Guajardo. There are some seniors on hand to pitch in including Jose Salinas, Juan Almeida and Jo Jo Munoz, and that trio produced a total of 15 hits over the first outings. But beyond that, the perennial playoff contender is struggling a bit.
Same thing goes for EHS, also off to a 0-4-1 beginning with the annual Border Olympics on the horizon last weekend. Veteran coach Robert Valdez underwent a difficult season in 2017 with an uncharacteristic 4-10 district mark, and said goodbye to stalwarts Jaime Cansino and Mateo Gonzalez. In the nascent stages of the campaign the Bobcats have gotten solid bat work from senior infielder Jesse Garcia and junior Johnathan Gonzalez. The pitching is promising, with the ‘Cats boasting no fewer than six kids who can take the bump, but none has risen to the top of the hill yet.
The jury is still out on Econ as the Jags seek to duplicate their fine playoff season of a year ago. No program suffered more extreme graduation losses, however, as Coach Rigo Sanchez only has a small handful of guys who return as starters. Still, the Jag scratched out a pair of wins in four tries before their appearance last weekend at the Tony Rico Tournament in Weslaco.
That leaves Vela, and as is the case in softball, the newest school looks to be heading in the upward direction. A 4-0 start set the SaberCats up in good shape as they prepared to travel to Tuloso-Midway for the Mira’s Classic last week. Transfer Marc Esquivel, late of North, fanned 11 in his first start in a new uniform, and talented Aaron Galvan nearly matched him with a 10K performance, in only four innings. Galvan and junior Nico Rodriguez combined for 11 RBI in that initial stretch of contests and junior Eric Martinez homered against Palmview, driving in three.
The city bunch will host the new ECISD All-American Tournament at four sites starting Thursday, affording fans and scribes alike the chance to get a good two-day look at the season in transition, before 31-6A battles commence March 13. Then, Vela will be at North for a rousing starter, and three days later it’s Vela against EHS. By then, folks should be able to have arranged some of the preliminary tea leaves and settle in for the race.
NOTES: Vela went 2-2 at T-M, closing with a 4-1 victory over Moody, while EHS made it to the third-place game at Sharyland, beating Alamo Heights Saturday, 9-4. The Bobcats also defeated Alice and Brownsville Vets at that event, with Jorge Salinas and E.J. Alanis making All-Tourney. North had a hard time of it, losing its last three outings to fall to 1-6-1. Econ also struggled over the weekend, leaving Weslaco with a 0-4 mark, but three of those losses were of the 1-run variety.