Texas College beared themselves with capable arms and dared themselves to keep pushing the envelope with their rising baseball program.
The Steers start the seventh year of the Freddy Rodriguez era today with a doubleheader at home against Science & Arts (Okla.), prepared to try and take one last step to the top of the Red River Athletic Conference.
Six of the team’s top nine hitters return, along with an ace on the mound, returns for the Steers, who finished second in the RRAC last regular season. TC finished 2012 with 27 wins, including one over national semifinalist LSU-Shreveport.
“I like our experience,” Rodriguez said on the eve of the 2013 season opener. “Having so many back, they understand what our potential is.”
First-team all-conference performer Jose Serna (Sr., C/OF, East Los Angeles, Calif.) headlines the Steers. Serna topped the Steers and the RRAC in batting average (.393), hits (64), doubles (14), total bases (82) and RBIs (26), and added 19 stolen bases.
Aldo Montoya (Sr., RHP, Los Angeles, Calif.) made the all-conference second team as a pitcher last year after appearing in 16 games and winning six. Montoya hurled three complete games and led the Steers with 80.2 innings pitched.
Agustin Enriquez, a first-team all-conference selection as a sophomore, returns for his final year. Enriquez, a senior shortstop from Lufkin, hit .337 last year with 24 RBIs 15 stolen bases.
Two key transfers bolster the Steers on the mound: Tyler Seibert (Jr., RHP, Toledo, Ohio) and Dennis Neal (Sr., LHP, San Leandro, Calif.).
Juan Carrillo (Sr., 1B, Oakland, Calif.) ranked third last year in batting average (.360) to add returning firepower. Other key performers back include D.J. Fisher (So., 3B/SS, Killeen), Moises Espinoza (Sr., OF, Oakland, Calif.), Matthew McEuen (Sr., 3B, Forney), Corey Heidebrecht (Sr., 2B, Pleasanton, Calif.), Caleb Searcy (Jr., OF, Fort Worth) and Cody Stifle (So., OF, Diboll) and Caleb Sear
The Steers compiled a .297 team batting average last year while averaging 5.4 runs per game. Rodriguez expects the Steers’ bats to stay busy during the spring. The Steers swiped 148 bases in 2012, an average of 2.9 per game.
“Offensively we’re going to be the type of team to manufacture runs and put the ball in play with timely hitting,” said Rodriguez, whose former longtime assistant Mike Holochuck left to take the head coaching job at Jarvis Christian. “We’re not a power team. We’ll run the bases and play solid defense. (We’re hoping) our pitching is going to hold up. Fundamental baseball is what we’re going to try to play.”
The Steers’ lineup to start the year puts Julian Coffin-Lennear (Jr., 3B, Oakland, Calif. in the leadoff spot, followed by Enriquez, Serna, Searcy, Carillo, Espinoza, the designated hitting trio of either McEuen, Fisher or newcomer Frank Mora (Sr., 1B/OF, Houston), with Heidebrecht hitting eighth, and Stifle, last year’s league leader in stolen bases (30), in the nine-spot.
The pitching rotation also features Colby Ryan (So., LHP, Columbia), Chris Burroughs (So., RHP, Copperas Cove), and Caleb Hensley (Sr., LHP, New Boston), with Tanner Shaffer (So., RHP/2B, Marble Falls) playing the role of closer.
With the majority of the roster back from last year’s contenders, the Steers set the bar even higher.
“Our ultimate goal is to be a conference champion and to be a 30-plus win club,” said Rodriguez, who also coaches the Alexandria Aces of the Texas Collegiate League during the summer. “The expectations and standards are higher (now) versus six, seven, eight years ago. They want to keep them there.”
Texas College Steers 2013 Baseball Schedule
Date Opponent Time Games
Jan. 25 Science & Arts Noon 7, 7
Jan. 26 Science & Arts Noon 7, 7
Jan. 29 at LSU-Alexandria 4 p.m. 7, 7,
Feb. 1 at Louisiana College 6 p.m. 9
Feb. 2 at Louisiana College Noon 7, 9
Feb. 8 at Lubbock Christian 2 p.m. 7, 7
Feb. 9 at Lubbock Christian 1 p.m. 7, 7
Feb. 19 Dallas Christian Noon 7, 7
Feb. 22 at LSU-Shreveport 6 p.m. 9
Feb. 23 at LSU-Shreveport 1 p.m. 7, 9
Feb. 26 at Prairie View A&M Noon 9, 9
March 1 Jarvis Christian Noon 7, 9
March 2 Jarvis Christian Noon 9, 7
March 6 UT Tyler 7 p.m. 9
March 8 at Northwood 2 p.m. 9
March 9 at Northwood Noon 7, 9
March 13 at Houston-Victoria 3 p.m. 7, 7
March 15 at SW Assemblies 4 p.m. 9
March 16 at SW Assemblies Noon 7, 9
March 19 at Centenary 4 p.m. 7, 9
March 22 Texas Wesleyan 3 p.m. 9
March 23 Texas Wesleyan 1 p.m. 7, 9
March 26 LSU-Alexandria 2 p.m. 7, 7
March 29 at Wiley 2 p.m. 9
March 30 at Wiley 1 p.m. 7, 9
April 2 at Dallas Christian 2 p.m. 7, 7
April 5 at Huston-Tillotson Noon 7, 9
April 6 at Huston-Tillotson Noon 9
April 12 Bacone Noon 7, 9
April 13 Bacone Noon 9