Joe Luis Lopez had an inkling he was watching the next great Calallen pitcher in Dylan Duarte before the left-hander had even taken the mound once for the Wildcats.
A lot of the intangibles that make Duarte an ace now were present back then.
None of what Lopez saw in Duarte, however, had anything to do with throwing mechanics, velocity or mound presence.
In fact, Lopez’s realization stems from Duarte’s time as a basketball player.
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ONE GAME AT A TIME
Ray girds for new opponents in Class 6A
Orlando Ruiz looks favorably upon Ray’s move to Class 6A.
The 2014-16 University Interscholastic League realignment bumped the Texans up from the old 4A to 6A — formerly 5A — placing them in a six-team district with eighth-ranked Carroll, King, San Antonio East Central, San Antonio Southwest and South San Antonio.
King Mustangs ready to take the next step in playoffs
Recent history suggests King could be primed for a breakthrough.
The Mustangs ended a two-year streak of exits in the postseason’s area round by advancing to the region quarterfinals in 2013, losing to eventual state semifinalist San Antonio O’Connor in a three-game playoff after winning Game 1.
Last year, King was ousted by eventual state runner-up San Antonio Reagan, losing two games in a row after winning the opener of a three-game quarterfinal.
For the second straight year, the Mustangs had met their end in the third round. The stage and disappointment was all too familiar at that point.
TAKING OVER THE TIGERS
Expectations drive new coach Leal, players
T.J. Kassner likens the head-coaching change at Carroll to the kind of turnover successful high school teams generally have to overcome because of graduation.
For those clubs, preserving success is about identifying the next individual in line to fill a particular role, and that individual rising to the occasion.
In the Tigers’ case, that individual is Mike Leal.
BUILDING NEW TRADITIONS
Storied Moody squad still hungry for glory
None of the Moody baseball players were alive when the Trojans began their streak of 22 consecutive playoff appearances.
Obviously, that speaks to the tradition of the school’s program cultivated by Steve Castillo then Corky Gallegos and, currently, Joe Curiel.
Tradition will have to play a part if the Trojans are going to notch No. 23. Only a handful of players logged significant playing time from the 2014 crew that was shocked in a one-game area playoff by eventual Class 4A runner-up Victoria East, halting a season with a 27-3-1 record.
HORNETS AIM FOR PLAYOFFS
Coach says competition is unprecedented
The district landscape is vastly different these days for many of the area’s high school baseball teams. Not only have classifications changed, but the layout, as well.
Flour Bluff coach Ron Weikum also expects the level of competition to reach unprecedented levels. That belief just might be what the Hornets use to fuel the fire.
“We have a very good chance of being a playoff team, but I think everybody is in the same shape. Obviously, some teams are going to be left out, but we’re really going to enjoy the competition,” Weikum said. “That’s going to force our team to become even better. Every day we’re going to be faced with playing a high-caliber team that’s going to make us play at that level. I think the kids are up for it.”
WILDCATS DUST THEMSELVES OFF
Last year's early playoff exit fuels the team's determination
Most high school ballclubs might relish having a team batting average of .323.
That isn’t necessarily the case for Calallen, and the offensive shortcomings in 2014 eventually led to an uncustomary early exit in the playoffs with Medina Valley sweeping a best-of-3 regional quarterfinal series.
“I think about that all the time, and I hope our kids do, too,” 33rd-year coach Steve Chapman said of the Wildcats’ premature end to the season, “because as far as I’m concerned it was about two or three weeks too soon.”
BUCS YOUNG BUT EAGER
Miller needs confidence in rugged district
A lack of confidence is something Miller baseball coach Rey Castaneda has been trying to help the Buccaneers overcome. It hasn’t been easy and won’t be again this season considering the Bucs are in a nine-team district that features six postseason qualifiers from a year ago, including Class 4A state finalist Victoria East.
Still, Castaneda said Miller enters the season with more self-assurance.
“The kids that are playing for us now, they play year-round. They know most of the kids from the other teams in the district. They either play against them or they’re on the same team,” Castaneda said. “Our kids have been playing so much ball they feel very comfortable out there. They’re confident in themselves, and that’s a big plus.”
New coach Schulz aims for G-P to excel
An assistant for six years before taking over the program this season, Gregory-Portland’s Kehr Schulz didn’t have to deal with the typical transition awaiting most first-time skippers. That doesn’t mean the changeover was void of obstacles, but it did allow Schulz to begin imparting a philosophical mindset he said the Wildcats are ready to realize.
“It’s been a smooth transition. I have tremendous support from not only the administration, but also the community and parents. The kids don’t have to learn about me and I don’t have to learn about them. It’s a blessing, to be honest,” Schulz said. “The real task is getting the team and the community to believe we can turn this program into a state-caliber ballclub. Yes, it’s going to take some work, but it’s definitely within our grasp.”
Schulz thinks the competition in District 30-5A is likely to help G-P’s effort.
A NEW CHALLENGE
Warriors will test talent in District 30-5A
David Marsello spent six seasons helping former coach Michael Davila turn the Tuloso-Midway baseball team into a playoff contender. Now that Marsello is in his first year at the helm, there’s no reason to expect a retreat from the Warriors.
Not with the kind of senior experience that returns to the 2015 lineup.
T-M is armed with four four-year starters in seniors Nathan Freitag, Nick Galaviz, Mason Hellums and Caleb Rozypal.“It’s totally great to be able to rely on those guys,” Marsello said. “Their work ethic and their desire has been there since they first stepped on the field four years ago. They’ve helped carry the team ever since then. With the exception of Rozypal, they’re all pure baseball players. We can lean on those guys. They’re team leaders. They’re the keys to what we do.”
Like a lot of places in South Texas, the town of Bishop always has been a baseball hotbed. Six straight trips to at least the region semifinals only stoked those fires. Last year’s trip to the Region IV-3A final and now the No. 1 state ranking in the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association’s preseason poll has poured gasoline on the flames.
“It all has added a lot of excitement for the kids and the community as well,” Bishop coach J.K. Moody said. “Bishop has a rich tradition in baseball anyway, but to add the No. 1 ranking and all the airtime we’ve been getting before the season has even started … it’s added a different type of buzz in town. The kids are definitely getting a lot of pats on the back all around town, but we don’t worry too much about being No. 1 in February. We want to be No. 1 in June.”
It’s difficult to imagine a tougher small-school district than District 31-2A. In addition to state-ranked Kenedy, you also have playoff teams from a year ago in Port Aransas and London. Then, Refugio was added to the league when the Bobcats were dropped down a classification.
That means Refugio, ranked No. 6 in the state by the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association, and Kenedy — ranked 8th, will have to battle with Port Aransas, London and a host of others for the district’s three playoff spots.
The strikeout queen for the Carroll Tigers doesn’t throw a fastball.
She doesn’t need to.
Sophomore Hannah Mayo’s ability to handle pressure coupled with her skill to toss a curveball 62 mph produced 302 strikeouts and 13 shutouts last season, while maintaining a .300 or better batting average, not to mention a 4.0-plus grade-point average. And as a freshman this fierce competitor fanned 16 batters during a single game.
"Hannah’s curveball is as fast as most fastballs,” father Chris Mayo said. "It’s remarkable what she can make a softball do.”
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Carroll likely will be the softball team to beat in the Coastal Bend for years to come thanks to its strong sophomore class.
Area dominance is only part of the plan for the Tigers, who are determined to contend for the Region IV-6A title as well this season.
“We have the capability to do something amazing this year and I’m excited about it,” Carroll coach A.J. Caballero said. “We want to carry over the (momentum) we had from last year into this season.”