Brownsville Memorial looking to make deep playoff run

After a 14-0 District 32-5A result ended with a loss in the bi-district round of last season’s playoffs, the Brownsville Veterans Memorial Chargers and coach Albert Rodriguez are aiming even higher in 2019.

“We have a bitter taste in our mouth about the playoffs (last season),” Rodriguez said. “We’re going to execute day in and day out in practice. We’re going to make sure they take accountability of their mistakes and miscues.”

With nine returning starters, the core of the 2018 district champion Chargers remains fully intact, led by senior first baseman/designated hitter Ruben Gallegos, pitcher Cristian Holloway, senior pitcher/infielder Justin Anaya and pitcher outfielder Rafael Capistran. Five bench players from last year’s team are returning, rounding out one of the most experienced groups in the district.

“It’s eighteen guys that are committed to winning games and building tradition here,” Rodriguez said of his roster.

Senior Seth Sarquis, a newcomer on this year’s squad, will bolster the depth of Rodriguez’s rotation and can play all over the field.

“He’s another utility player that is going to help us,” Rodriguez said. “Our aces, our horses are going to pitch, and we can’t put them back on the field, and he’s going to help and relieve us at any position. He can play any position in the infield, and he’s also a pitcher. He brings a great vibe, great energy to the team. He’s one of our catalysts in the dugout.”

The right-handed duo of Anaya and Capistran will lead the rotation, but Rodriguez said he’s still figuring out his lineup and the rest of his pitching staff, factoring in performances from practice and scrimmages. He was recently impressed by Jorge Lozano, a right-handed first-baseman and pitcher.

“He’s shown a lot of fire in him, a lot of passion,” Rodriguez said. “He’s been on point with his pitching, his mechanics. It’s just really exciting for us to know that we have a deep pitching staff and rotation.”

Rolando Izeta, a quarterback for the Chargers football team who is listed as a third baseman and pitcher on Brownsville Veterans’ roster, also caught the eye of his coach this offseason.

“He throws a fastball but it looks like a cutter, and it has that natural tail seam,” Rodriguez said. “It’s very unorthodox to see that, and I’m excited about it him, too, he’s been pitching very well.”

Rodriguez’s philosophy is that a Chargers player is expected to contribute to the team’s success, a culture that has become well-established.

“We don’t see it as fighting for spots, we see it more as contributing when their name is called,” Rodriguez said. “And it’s a great thing for them to understand that, because it makes everything fall into place.”

The Chargers open their season at Brownsville Hanna at 6:30 p.m. Monday.

Brownsville Lopez

Coach: Victor Hugo Martinez

2018 snapshot: (16-10-1, 11-3 32-5A) district runner-up, bi-district finalist

Number of returning starters: Six

Top returning players: Six

Key newcomers: None

Season outlook: “The Lobos always have high expectations and have the district title as their goal,” Martinez said. “With six returning starters from last year’s lineup, the season looks promising. The Lobos know it’s a tough district, but with their hard work and dedication they feel they can make a lot of noise this upcoming season.”

The Lobos play host to Sharyland High in their season opener at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Brownsville Pace

Coach: Roy Rodriguez

2018 snapshot: (11-12, 6-8 32-5A) fourth in district, lost in bi-district round to Valley View.

Number of returning starters: Three

Top returning players: Sophomore Jose Banda, junior Jose Lara, senior Carlos Ortiz.

Key newcomers: Juniors Abdiel Garcia and Jaylun Garcia.

Season outlook: “This year’s team will be a completely new team, with emphasis on the young talent we currently have, as a number of freshman could start on opening night,” Rodriguez said. “They will be thrown into the fire quick. It is a complete makeover and we look to grow for the next few years. We may be very inexperienced and go through growing pains, but I like the direction this team is headed. Expectations are very high for this team. It will be a competitive district.”

The Vikings travel to Los Fresnos to open their season at 6 p.m. Monday.

Brownsville Porter

Coach: Oscar Cortez

2018 snapshot: (11-15, 1-13 32-5A)

Number of returning starters: Four

Top returning players: Cristopher Sauceda, Cesar Lartigue

Key newcomers: Armando De La Cruz

Season outlook: “It’s going to be tough with a lot of talented players coming back to all the teams in our district,” Cortez said. “We will be competing for a playoff spot with our hard-working and dedicated kids.”

The Cowboys host San Benito in their season opener at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

District 32-6A

Harlingen South

After enduring some growing pains last season, the Harlingen South Hawks are poised to make a statement in a competitive District 32-6A field.

“We have matured a lot in one year,” Harlingen South coach Chris Gracia said. “We were very young last year, but that group now has a whole year of varsity experience together. The work that they put in during the offseason will pay off. hey now know what to expect and are hungry to show what they can do. Our district is full of tough opponents so we have to bring our best to every game. It is going to be a battle for those top four spots to make it into the playoffs.”

With eight returning starters from a team that went (11-16 over all and 4-10 in 32-6A play last season, the Hawks believe they have the experience to leapfrog some of their district rivals. Harlingen South will “lean heavily” on seniors Nick Muniz and Trey Vento on the mound. Gracia said pitching depth will be the main strength of the Hawks this season.

The Hawks’ focus will be improving at the plate, particularly with runners on.

“The key for us will be our pitching depth and clutch situational hitting,” Gracia said. “We will need to be more successful in situational hitting to score runs.”

Catcher Enrique Alvarado, first baseman Luke Castellanos, third baseman AB Terron, and left fielder C.J. Grimaldo all started for Harlingen South as juniors last year, and senior second baseman Mando Martinez and senior Edgar Arreola will provide additional versatility.

“(Martinez) was the District 32-6A newcomer of the year last year,” Gracia said. “He played right field last year, but we are transitioning him to center because of a couple of injuries sustained to our outfielders during football season.”

New to the Hawks this year are freshmen Chase Roberts and Xander Casarez, and sophomore Ethan Garcia, all of whom Gracia expects to make an impact right away.

“(Garcia) is a newcomer that we will be using all over the field,” Gracia said. “(Roberts) looks to get a good amount of time at shortstop and (Casarez) looks to see some time in the outfield.”

Harlingen South’s combination of veteran poise and youthful energy could make it a dark-horse contender this season.

“Overall, I think that a year of maturity and experience at the varsity level that these guys got last year will make a big difference in the close games that we will face this year,” Gracia said. “Last year we were young and struggled in closing out tight games. Hopefully we can show that we learned from that and start winning those close ones.”

The Hawks open their season at Edinburg North at 7 p.m. Monday.

Brownsville Hanna

Coach: Jameson Wicks

2018 snapshot: 21-7, 11-3, area finalist

Number of returning starters: Three

Top returning players: Marco Martinez, Marco Sanchez, Jaime Uvalle Key newcomers: Ryan Trinidad, Anthony Ambriz

Season outlook: “(We) lost 14 seniors from (our) 2018 (District 32-6A) championship team. Depth will be developed in 2019, and (we are) eyeing another district championship. Marco Sanchez, was voted (preseason first-team catcher) by the Baseball Coaches Association of the Rio Grande Valley. He is being recruited by a handful of Division I schools throughout the state.”

The Eagles host Brownsville Veterans Memorial at 6:30 p.m. Monday.

Brownsville Rivera

Coach: Travis Parker

2018 snapshot: (22-10, 10-4 32-5A), tied for second in district.

Number of returning starters: Six

Top returning players: Shortstop Michael Gomez, utility player Raul Gonzalez, first baseman Jose Hernandez, catcher Ricky Ibarra.

Key newcomers: Utility player Rian Rosales, designated hitter Lazaro Valdez.

Season outlook: “The Raiders in 2019 will be a team to battle with. As long as we can find ourselves on the mound, I believe we can play with anyone defensively. Our lineup will be a pretty deep and experienced one as well.”

The Raiders host La Joya High in their season opener at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Harlingen High

Coach: Armando Rangel

2018 snapshot: (15-9, 9-5 32-6A), lost in bi-district

Number of returning starters: Three

Top returning players: Pitchers John Ortega and Abel Flores

Key newcomers: Thomas Lyssy

Season outlook: “I expect my team to battle for a district title,” Rangel said.

The Cardinals will travel to McAllen High for their season opener at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Los Fresnos

Coach: Rene Morales

2018 snapshot: (27-11, 11-3 32-6A) district, bi-district and area champions, regional quarterfinalists.

Number of returning starters: Four

Top returning players: Sophomore pitcher/outfielder Victor Loa, junior infielder Carlos Perez, senior second baseman Sebastian Ledezma, senior designated hitter/first baseman Ian Danielson, senior catcher Tony Gallegos, senior first baseman/pitcher Alex Salas, senior outfielder/pitcher Lee Trevino, senior pitcher/outfielder Johnny Cadengo.

Key newcomers: Sophomore catcher Jacob Sandoval, junior catcher Hector Salcedo, junior infielder Sammy De Leon, sophomore infielder Javier Gutierrez, senior outfielder/pitcher Robert Ramones, senior infielder Jorge Gonzalez, sophomore pitcher/outfielder Germain Castillo, senior pitcher/outfielder Isaac Franco.

Season outlook: “Our defense and pitching should carry us early on. Our expectations are high just because of our past success.”

San Benito

Coach: Jimmy Young

2018 snapshot: (8-19-1, 4-10 32-6A)

Number of returning starters: Seven

Top returning players: Daniel Dial, Alejandro Ybarra, Nathaniel Garcia, Tristan Montemayor, Albert Mercado.

Key newcomers: Michael Banda, Gabriel Sandoval, Marco Arizpe.

Season outlook: “(We will) play with passion, respect the game, leave it on the field,” Young said.”(Our goal is to) win a district title and make a deep playoff run.”

The Greyhounds will open their season at Brownsville Porter at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

District 32-4A

Port Isabel

Coach: Albert Barberena

2018 snapshot: (8-11)

Number of returning starters: Four

Top returning players: First baseman Daniel Martinez, outfielder Hugo Gonzalez, designated hitter Alek Zermeno, shortstop Dominik Salazar.

Key newcomers: Matthew Cantu, Jayden Lopez, Bud Valdez, Frank Silva.

Season outlook: “Our team is very young,” Barberna said. “And will progress to be a better team as the season goes.”

Rio Hondo

Coach: Sergio Gonzalez

2018 snapshot: (10-15, 7-7 32-4A), lost in play-in series.

Number of returning starters: Eight

Top returning players: Senior pitcher/shortstop Cross Gonzalez, four-year starter; 32-4A offensive player of the year; 2018 TXSWA all-state shortstop; Texas High School Baseball Magazine Top 40 Players Region IV; junior second baseman Derek Castellanos, second-team all-district; senior outfielder Frank Hernandez, second-team all-district; senior pitcher Christian Garza, first-team all-district; senior catcher Danny Vasquez, four-year starter, first-team all-district.

Key newcomers: Senior first baseman Daniel Garza.

Season outlook: “We have experience on this senior ballclub with eight returning starters,” Gonzalez said. “Our top two pitchers, Christian Garza and Cross Gonzalez, return on the mound. Our infield is anchored down by Gonzalez and Derek Castellanos in the middle infield. Frank Hernandez, in center field, covers a lot of ground. We are hoping to stay together as a team and finish stronger this year. We’ve had a couple of play-in games in which we have fallen short, so we are focusing on finishing the fight.”

Raymondville

Coach: Carlos Moreno

2018 snapshot: 15-11

Number of returning starters: Eight

Top returning players: Derrick Ramirez, Darren Ramirez, Nathaniel Garcia, Jaden Tagle, Cole Cooly, Thomas Zambrano, Noe Zambrano, Jacob Posas.

Key newcomers: Gabriel Garza, Gabriel Espino.

Season outlook: “(Our) expectations are continuing the success of last year’s club with contending for a district title and making the playoffs,” Moreno said.

District 32-3A

Lyford

Coach: Kevin Ledesma

2018 snapshot: (13-11-1 overall, 7-2 32-3A), lost to Banquete in bi-district round of playoffs.

Number of returning starters: Five

Top returning players: Alfonso Garcia, Ramsey Reyna, Abel Gonzalez and Matthew Sanchez

Key newcomers: Ryan Rivera, Adrian Cruz, Tristen Garcia, Diego Guerra

Season outlook: “We’ve got a young core with key senior leadership that helps us compete,” Ledesma said. “We’ve got the pieces to the puzzle, and it’s going to be fun putting it together. “(We’ve got) big expectations for this ballclub, and we hope to surprise people while continuing to develop as a team. (“We’re) excited to see how this year plays out.”

Stefan Modrich Total Posts: 158 Stefan Modrich is a 2017 graduate of Arizona State University, where he was the Sports Editor for The State Press, ASU's independent student news publication. He is also a graduate of the University of Zagreb in Croatia, where he completed a foreign language program in 2018. A native of Franklin Park, Illinois, Modrich previously covered high school sports for The Arizona Republic, Chicago Tribune, and Mars Reel Media.