SAN JUAN — Ever since Marco Guajardo took over as coach of the PSJA High Bears, and even before that, his team has always been among the best in the Valley.
The key word in there is “among.”
PSJA knows, all too well, who is considered to be on top. The two don’t really play each other all that often, aren’t in the same district, and can’t possibly meet in the playoffs until the Region IV-5A final.
But that doesn’t stop everyone at PSJA from targeting the big boys to the west — Sharyland.
“It’s fun, the guys take it as a challenge,” Guajardo said. “I say (to the team), ‘We’re not in the same district. But maybe in the playoffs.’”
The general consensus, much like last year, is that Sharyland and PSJA have the top two programs in the Valley. This year, to start, the Rattlers are No. 1 and the Bears are No. 2. But that’s just to start, and that’s just an opinion.
Ultimately, it comes down to what happens on the field. And PSJA thinks it has that covered this year.
“High expectations,” said Jorge Flores, a pitcher/centerfielder who transferred from Hidalgo. “We have the team, we have the hitting, we have the pitching, we have the coaching. We have everything.”
Flores throws in the high-80s and is already committed to Navarro Junior College. He will pitch for the Bears, as will Alberto Morales, who also plays third base. Top pitcher Joey Garza tore his ACL at the end of football season and is expected back around the second half of District 31-5A play.
Jesse Tovar, a shortstop, will also factor into the rotation, most likely as middle relief. Christian Sanchez, a 6-foot-1 leftfielder, figures to hit in the middle of the order.
Having those guys, and considering what they did last year, gives PSJA confidence heading into 2013.
“I think we can make a good run this year,” Guajardo said. “This is a senior club, this should be the year.”
In 2012, PSJA went 27-6 overall and 14-0 in district, making it to the regional quarterfinals before falling to Laredo Alexander. Guajardo figures the Bulldogs will be there again in the third round, lined up to face the Bears (should they get there).
To get over that hump, PSJA knows it needs to get better.
“Our pitching has to improve, be stronger,” Morales said through a translator. “Our hitting has to be there at all times. We still have a strong team.”
That team has always been there. That’s why kids are always looking to find a way to get to PSJA. Flores knew that feeling.
“From the outside, you just thought there was something great. When I was coming from the other school (Hidalgo), I wished I was in the outfield,” Flores said. “They just play ball. They don’t do anything different. We do the fundamentals, that’s about it. That’s why there’s so much success in this school.”
Leading that charge is Guajardo, a 1990 graduate of PSJA who is in his third year as coach. “I started here, I played here. I’m homegrown,” he said.
But, of course, there’s always more. The Bears have laid the groundwork, sure it came against the Edinburg and Harlingen schools of the old 31-5A, but the plans won’t change even though they’re facing the McAllen’s, the Weslaco’s, San Benito and two of their sister schools.
In fact, they hope it will only get bigger. And the first thing they need to do is match what the Rattlers have done.
“Just carry it on,” Guajardo said. “I’ve kind of tried to step it up a little. We want to be at the Sharyland level. … Now I just want to keep it going.”
Todd Orodenker covers baseball for The Monitor. You can reach him at (956) 683-4431 or via email at email@example.com.
From Harlingen South in 2007 to Sharyland in 2012, the Valley has had some deep postseason runs as of late. This year could follow that trend. In order for that to happen, these are five guys that could make a difference on their respective teams.
>> Tres Barrera, Sharyland. Already signed to play next year at Texas, Barrera will catch, pitch and play third base for the Rattlers and coach Bart Bickerton this season. Sharyland returns just about everybody from its regional semifinal team of last year, and everything is set up for it to make another run. If that happens, and it starts with a District 30-5A that the Rattlers are expected to win, Barrera figures to play a big part in it.
>> Andrew Padron, McAllen Rowe. The Warriors, who haven’t made the playoff since 2009, figure to ride their ace pitcher this year in a tough District 31-5A. Expect to see him matched up against as many top teams as first-year coach Angel Perez can make possible. Padron, who will attend UTPA next season as a preferred walk-on, also plays shortstop and was an All-District pitcher in 2012.
>> Michael Harrison, Edinburg High. The Bobcats lost a decent number of players to new school Edinburg Vela, but not Harrison, who will catch and pitch for coach Robert Valdez’s team. With depth being a major concern, the junior will be counted on to lead Edinburg back to the playoffs, a place the program is more than used to being. In a competitive District 30-5A, that won’t be easy.
>> Chris Rocha, La Joya Palmview. One of several key players for the Lobos, Rocha will pitch and play third base this year for coach Manuel Garcia’s team. Palmview returns six players from last year’s squad that made the playoffs, and if anyone is going to challenge mighty Sharyland in District 30-5A, it’s going to be these guys. Rocha, who will hit fifth, should be a big reason why.
>> Victor Fuentes, Rio Grande City. The senior will pitch, catch and play shortstop this year for the Rattlers, who figure to battle Mission High and Mission Veterans for the District 32-4A title. Fuentes is one of many returning players for RGC, who won the district title last season and have a new coach in Salvador Hernandez. Behind their All-District pitcher, the Rattlers will look to do it again in 2013.
RGVSports.com Top 10
2. PSJA High
3. Brownsville Hanna
4. La Joya Palmview
5. Rio Grande City
6. Los Fresnos
7. Mission High
8. McAllen Memorial
9. Harlingen South