Harlingen High coach Armando Rangel turned around a Cardinals squad that squeaked into the 2018 playoffs with a sub .500 overall record and finished 7-7 in District 32-6A into a team that was in contention for a district title on the final day of the regular season.
Rangel guided the Cardinals (19-18, 10-5 32-6A) to the area round with a bi-district series win over Edinburg High, and he is the Valley Morning Star’s 2019 Al-STAR Baseball Coach of the Year.
Entering the 2019 season, Rangel had his work cut out for him, needing to replace six starters who had graduated the previous spring.
“But not only that, we moved everybody around,” Rangel said. “From our starting group, only one guy actually played where he played the year before.”
Rangel’s bold shakeups included shifting George Stillman from right field to first base, moving Aaron Pacheco from first base to catcher and sliding incumbent all-district starting shortstop Abel Flores to third base to make room for freshman Thomas Lyssy. Lyssy went on to win a share of the District 32-6A newcomer of the year award. Cardinals ace John Ortega, the 2019 Valley Morning Star Most Valuable Player, finished third in the voting for the district MVP honor.
“I can’t say enough about our seniors,” Rangel said. “(The defensive adjustments) showed the commitment those kids had. They showed the young guys how to do it and how to buy into a program. We expect great things from this program.”
Harlingen High reeled off a five-game win streak during a stretch of district play that included two games against the 2018 district champion Los Fresnos Falcons, whom the Cardinals swept en route to clinching a second-place finish in District 32-6A.
“We didn’t have a lot of superstars in that group,” Rangel said. “We had a lot of guys that worked together toward a common goal. And at the end of the day, we got close to all of our goals, but we’ve still got further to go. The foundation that (our seniors laid) for the other guys, I just can’t emphasize it enough. It’s just tremendous, the attitude that our younger guys have because of our seniors. “