Bearkats turning last year’s disappointing season into positive turnaround

RAYMONDVILLE — After last years 3-11 district finish, all the Raymondville Bearkats want to do this season is right all of last season’s wrongs, starting with the team’s culture.

Taking a page from Texas A&M head coach Rob Childress’ playbook, Raymondville head coach Judson Savage decided to incorporate some of Childress’ ways this year and get back to fundamentals before anything else.

“I’ve kind of copied what Coach Childress does at A&M and do some pre-practice routines that allow us to work on fundamentals,” said Savage. “We’re working on hitting, we’re working on defense and that has changed the way that we approach practice, and on top of that just having the athletes that we do.”

The change has worked so far as the Bearkats are off to an 8-5 start to the 2018 season. However, while there has been success, in District 32-4A the team is currently 1-2.

The record is a bit deceiving, though. Last season, the team started out by losing to Port Isabel 9-2 and Rio Hondo 4-2 before picking up its first league win in a 9-8 victory over Progreso.

This year, the team began by beating the Tarpons 3-2, losing to Rio Hondo 4-8 and beating Progreso 2-3 for the same 1-2 start. However, the difference this season has been that the Bearkats have been competitive, which they were not last year.

Another difference this season has been the team’s pitching, which features a pair of twins and a “Nano.”

“The twins, Derick and Darren Ramirez, have been a fundamental part of this year’s team as well as Nathaniel “Nano” Garcia,” said Savage. “Nano did phenomenal against Brownsville St. Joseph and we had him pitch against Bishop, and again he did really well. Even though we lost, he did really well and has established himself as a quality guy.”

Aside from the Bearkats’ injection of youth, the two lone seniors, Daniel Gutierrez and Rudy Ambriz, have been instrumental in turning the team around.

“Our two seniors have been key catalysts to our team,” said Savage. “What it takes is for all of our kids to buy in and both Gutierrez and Ambriz have been instrumental to this team. We’ve been blessed with good baseball players that have been working really hard and that’s what it takes to turn things around.”

WILLACY COUNTY TOURNAMENT: With any new season comes an opportunity to try something different, and that “different” this year was hosting the inaugural Willacy CountyBaseball Tournament.

The tourney was open to just teams from WillacyCounty and included Raymondville, San Perlita, Lasara and Lyford.

“The tournament was really a community tournament,” said Savage. “The towns of WillacyCounty are connected by a lot more than blacktop or caliche (gravel) roads, but they are mostly connected by family bonds. Most of these kids all have relatives on all the other teams and that is what really made the tournament special.”

Raymondville won the tournament and lifted the trophy with a 6-5 win over Lyford.