The sidewalk that snakes across the Los Fresnos campus leads from the gymnasium to a small storage shed beyond left field. Every day on their way to and from practice, the Falcons take this path.
Occasionally, they will take a closer look at the wall, which features a maroon map of the state of Texas and notes every season since 1990 that the school has qualified for a playoff berth in the sport.
This year’s senior class wants to leave its own indelible mark, like the fresh “2019” on the mural, and continue the playoff tradition of the Los Fresnos baseball program as it prepares to take on Laredo United in a one-game playoff Friday.
Senior pitcher/first baseman Alex Salas, pitcher/third baseman Isaac Franco, second baseman Sebastian Ledesma, right fielder Johnny Cadengo and left fielder Lee Trevino have helped keep the Falcons focused and poised as they begin another playoff push.
“We see this wall, and we’re grateful,” Salas said. “Because not a lot of teams can have this success.”
Los Fresnos only returned four starters from the team that went all the way to the regional quarterfinal round, a three-game series the Falcons dropped 2-1 to Edinburg Vela in 2018.
“Our culture has changed a lot,” Salas said. “We had to fill some big shoes, and these guys came through.”
Ledesma attributed the team’s continuity to belief in coach Rene Morales and his ability to prepare the team for every situation. Franco and others reiterated that the team’s strength has been its cohesiveness, referring to his teammates as “family.”
Despite failing to reach their goal of repeating as District 32-6A champions, the Falcons’ seniors are focused on adding to their program’s playoff tradition heading into the area round, following a 3-1 win over District 31-6A runner-up Weslaco High.
“That was a big motivator,” Salas said. “They expected us to be out in the first round, and we surprised some people. That’s been our main motivation.”
Los Fresnos’ seniors were even-keeled throughout the game, recording quality at-bats and giving Victor Loa a three-run cushion with which to work as he completed his no-hit bid.
“It was just about keeping our focus,” Trevino said. “Even if one inning things didn’t go right for us, we just kept positive and kept bouncing back.”
Franco, who has emerged as a quality starting pitcher in his own right, said he relishes every chance to pitch in relief or close out a game behind the talented Los Fresnos rotation.
“Coming in after any of these pitchers throwing, I always have the confidence to shut it out,” Franco said. “Mainly because we always get out on top and I always depend on my teammates, and they encourage me to finish out the game.”
The Falcons said their season turned around after a “heartbreaking” 5-4 loss to Harlingen High on March 12. Los Fresnos won six straight games after being swept by the Cardinals, and it is eager at the prospect of meeting its district rival in a regional quarterfinal.
“We just tried to turn the page,” Cadengo said. “We ended up finishing third, and we just got it done from there.”
To get back to a regional quarterfinal, the Falcons know they will need to knock out a tough Laredo United team first. The venue for the game, PSJA High, is familiar ground for Salas and Trevino, among others, as they have played there before for tournaments.