The 2017 Valley high school baseball season was full of positive surprises for the Lyford Bulldogs and Valley Morning Star All-STAR coach of the year Chris Cervantes.
After starting the District 32-3A schedule 1-1, Cervantes and the Bulldogs responded by going on an impressive seven-game win streak and, in the process, captured the league title for the first time since 1995.
However, the team fell to tough KingsvilleAcademy team in the bi-district round of the postseason.
Another bright spot for the Bulldogs this season was VMS All-STAR Most Valuable Player Layne Klostermann. The junior led the team both on and off the field, and was also recognized as District 32-3A’s MVP.
“Layne was a tremendous leader for us and was definitely one of the standouts for the team,” said Cervantes. “Due to his leadership on the field and off field, the kids responded well to him and when we needed a big play he was always there to back up the team and help us win that elusive district championship.
“He is a hard worker that made plays when he needed to and he was definitely one of the guys that the other players looked up to.”
Another player that was instrumental for his team was VMS All-STAR Defensive Player of the Year Troy Zepeda. The senior standout was pivotal for the Rio Hondo Bobcats this season and was one of two Class 4A players from the Valley that earned a spot on the THSBCA all-state team. Zepeda was also named a first-team second baseman on the 32-4A all-district list.
“Getting Defensive Player of the Year taught me that hard work pays off,” said Zepeda. “I learned that you get what you give and I gave it all I could at every practice and strived to contribute the most I could at every game for the team. I played until the end whether we were winning or losing.
“I am beyond humbled to have been selected as a two-time all-state player and all my glory goes to God because he has blessed me with my baseball skill.”
Zepeda dedicated his senior season in memory of his grandmother.
VMS All-STAR pitcher of the year was awarded to Harlingen’s Connor Harlan. The junior most notably pitched a one-hitter and his precision pitching led the Cardinals to their first playoff appearance in two years. However, Harlan wasn’t always the team’s ace and really came into his own this season.
“Connor came into the year being a swing guy for us as a sophomore,” said Harlingen head baseball coach Brian Aughney. “Early on this year he took his role and really ran with it, and got some early starts during tournament time, and he just really took advantage of his opportunities. Connor threw back-to-back shutouts and threw 14-16 innings of one-hit baseball.
“He’s not a guy who is going to light up the radar gun, but he is going to locate, and change speed and control the running game. He’s really developed as a pitcher and I’m super proud of him for the type season he’s put together and I know it’s going to continue to fuel his fire to be the best that he can be.”
Harlan was also recognized for his performance as a first-team pitcher on the District 32-6A all-district list.
Another player that has continued to improve his game is Harlingen High’s Boedy Flores, who was named the All-STAR Offensive Player of the Year.
Flores was also unanimously named first-team third baseman on the District 32-6A all-district list.
“Boedy was the district’s unanimous third baseman and for the third year in a row he’s earned our team award as our big hitter,” said Aughney. “He’s a hitter and he knows how to hit. He’s got tremendous bat speed and has tremendous plate awareness and he understands how to hit very well.
“I’m really excited to watch him grow as a player into his senior year and he’s going to have some opportunities to play at the next level as well.”