MISSION — Sharyland Pioneer, the Region IV representative at this week’s UIL 5A state baseball tournament in Round Rock and first Rio Grande Valley team to qualify since 2007, spent Monday hosting a youth skills camp, grooming future generations of potential Diamondbacks in hopes of carrying on the winning tradition being built.
But for this year’s group of seniors, turning a five-year-old program into a winning one has not been an easy task.
There were dark days that saw brutal losses and low morale, but there was always a sliver of hope in the minds of Jacob Rosales, Johnny Lugo and Pedro Tovias, four-year varsity players working toward a better future.
That future, for Sharyland Pioneer, is now.
“I knew in the back of my head, but I was dealing with reality at the time and we weren’t really doing too well,” Rosales said. “I knew we were going to work hard enough and I knew we had the talent to be in this moment. It worked with Coach (Casey) Smith coming in and with our other coaches. Everyone just started giving 100% every day and we’re all happy.”
Smith, who coached against Rosales, Lugo, Tovias and the Diamondbacks while at Mission Veterans in 2016 and 2017, took over Sharyland Pioneer two years ago, setting his sights changing the culture around the team.
“When we played them early on, they were very undisciplined. There were a lot of things we needed to get correct when we got over here, and one of the first things we did was just try to change the culture as far as making them accountable, understanding how hard it is and the work that goes into doing something special. To be different, you’ve got to work harder than everybody else,” Smith said.
Those now-seniors put in the work, setting the tone for the underclassmen, who find themselves as key contributors for the Diamondbacks.
Rosales, a shortstop and pitcher, holds a .402 average, 47 runs, 34 RBIs, four home runs, and is 43 for 43 on stolen bases in 40 games. He’s also 9-3 on the mound with an ERA of 1.79, seven complete games, five shutouts and 98 strikeouts this season.
Tovias, a left-fielder, hits .375 and has 31 runs and 24 RBIs.
Lugo is a .344 hitter and has a team-high 45 RBIs, one home run and one grand slam, with a 11-2 record as a pitcher, including 10-0 as a starter, with six complete games
Tovias, who can always be counted on to lighten the mood in the Diamondbacks locker room, said he always knew they had it in them.
“I knew we had the potential. We were still young, but we just became a lot closer, worked a lot harder and our mental game is a lot better,” he said.
After enduring those early down days, those Diamondbacks seniors now find themselves one game away from playing for a state championship.
“It’s a good feeling being a part of this, especially with these seniors that are here,” Lugo said.
The Diamondbacks will face Georgetown (40-4-1) in the semifinals of the 5A state tournament at 7 p.m. Thursday at Dell Diamond in Round Rock. The winner between Pioneer and Georgetown will advance to the state championship game to face the winner between Colleyville Heritage and Corsicana on at noon on Saturday at Dell Diamond.