HARLINGEN — When Harlingen High baseball coach Brian Aughney took the head coaching position five years ago, he had one goal in mind and that was to take the Cardinals program to the next level.
In many respects, Aughney has accomplished that. Prior to Aughney’s appointment, the Cardinals had missed out on the postseason five consecutive years. However, Aughney credits the seniors that have come up through the program for the team’s past success.
This season, the same holds true.
After being absent from the playoffs the past two seasons, the Harlingen Cardinals find themselves on the right side of the postseason cut off line again. With a District 32-6A record of 9-5, the Cardinals earned the third seed and a date with Edinburg North in a playoff series that gets stated Friday at Cougar Field in Edinburg.
And once again Aughney credits much of the team’s success to this year’s group of seniors consisting of Alex Hinojosa, Hayes Duffy, Kenny Reininger and Marco Hernandez.
“The special thing about these four guys is that they were with us as sophomores with three years to go and were part of the team that took some lumps,” said Aughney. “I think this year is a testament of how much these kids have bought into what we’re trying to do with the program and the philosophy that our coaches are trying to teach them.
“It’s also a testament to their hard work and their dedication, and their drive to have a successful senior campaign. And hopefully it’s something that will show our younger players how we go to work everyday.
“I think what’s different about this group of seniors is that all four are starters and all four are leaned upon heavily to produce during the game, and as well as leadership roles,” added Aughney. “It has worked nicely to have two seniors in the outfield and two in the infield, and four guys that we look to to have good quality at-bats every time.
“These four guys have really taken it upon themselves to set a goal at the beginning of the year and they haven’t waivered throughout.”
For senior first baseman Alex Hinojosa, this trip to the postseason also carries something extra.
“Making the playoffs means a little more to me now,” said Hinojosa. “Especially because the last two years haven’t been so great and we had some losing seasons. In the past we had some negativity and this year it was more positive; we’ve had a winning attitude. This year, for me, it’s really big because now I’m seeing all the younger and older guys coming together and really working as a team.
“We’re also really excited and we’re really grateful to be in this position. We never thought that after the last couple of seasons that we would be in this position. It’s something that we worked really hard to get to, but once we reached it we turned it on and really started working, and we are really hungry to not be a one-and-done team. We want to go deep in the playoffs and hopefully we can do that this season.”
However, Aughney knows the difficulty that the postseason brings. The Cardinals will be facing a tough Edinburg North team that finished 12-2 in District 31-6A – one game behind league champion PSJA High.
“We know that when we make it to this part of the season that teams are going to be good,” said Aughney. “We know that when we play our game we are pretty good, too. I think the guys are feeling confident because this time of the year it’s about playing clean baseball and eliminating giving guys free bases, and when we’ve got runs that need to be scored we need to drive them in. It’s about playing a complete game and hopefully our guys have found a nice balance.”