Robert E. Lee senior Zach Flanagan drove out to West Texas last week to take a look at Howard College.
He’d heard from former Red Raider players and Howard alums Burch Smith and Blake Barnes, but wanted to see the Big Spring school for himself.
“I just fell in love with the place,” said Flanagan, who signed a letter of intent to Howard on Tuesday afternoon in the Lee High School library.
With his parents watching, along with REL head coach David Howard and a few teammates and friends, Flanagan made his college choice official.
“The opportunity to play for a great baseball program (was too good to pass up),” said Flanagan, a first team all-district pitcher last year who posted two complete-game shutouts.
“(Howard) won a national championship in ‘09 and has one of the best overall records at the junior college level.”
Both Smith and Barnes were pitchers on that national title team, with Smith moving on to Oklahoma before being drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Barnes went from Howard to Oklahoma State.
“They both (sold me on it). They told me I was going to come out here and love it; and to get ready to work,” Flanagan said.
The senior is already slated as Lee’s ace entering the 2013 season. He finished last year with an impressive 7-2 record and 2.55 ERA.
Howard believes Flanagan is primed for the next level.
“I am just proud of him and for his family,” said Howard, the longtime pitching coach for the Red Raiders, who is about to embark on his first season as head coach.
“He’s put in the work for four years for us and to see him go to a quality school like Howard and a program that produces, not just good players, but consistently produces good pitchers. He’s also going to grow some more, which I know they see that as a plus. He runs the ball pretty well up there now, but he’s only going to get (faster).”