March 9, 2023
By Greg SelberClick here for select game photos
There is no question that Luis “Louie” Alamia was one of the finest fellows in the history of the city, a hard-working and talented man who dedicated his life to athletics, Edinburg, and the schools. He was also a fantastic all-around athlete in multiple sports at EHS – played very well at the college level – and later began a lifetime of tireless public service, so it’s grand to see the tournament bearing his name return to action.
Current athletic director Roy Garza knows well the impact that Alamia had on the education and sporting scenes, and Thursday Garza was out at Econ as the tourney, scheduled at three sites over three days, began.
“We’re glad to be doing this again, COVID affected a lot of events such as this,” said Garza, a baseball player in his own right back at EHS and later the highly successful football coach at North, now city AD. “It always takes a little maneuvering to make it happen, because of the district rules about how many days the kids miss class, how many tournaments you’re allowed, etc. Baseball is my baby in a way, and we’re happy the Alamia Tournament is here again.”
On a hot and windswept Thursday, day baseball was enjoyed at North, EHS, and Econ, as the city teams negotiate the non-district slate in preparation for the 31-6A brawl which begins late this month. Vela, now ensconced in 5A, is already into district play and thus did not take part in the event with its rivals. Last season the SaberCats went 25-10 and advanced to the third round of the playoffs before losing a series to La Joya, while the other three city squads missed the postseason.
Econ, under the tutelage of Coach Rigo Sanchez, has pieces in place with which to make a run this season, some veterans and a few newcomers in Orange. Freshman Gilbert Rodriguez has made a strong debut so far, on the mound and behind the plate, and appears to be one of the more promising prospects out east in some time. The Jags have a steady soldier at second base in Sean Hernandez and talented Noah Montano is back as well. Andrew Luna, who smacked a home run early in the season, has been bothered by a shoulder injury while guys such as Chris Perez (first base) and Josiah Villarreal have been productive.
On paper, EHS would seem to have a solid shot at contending, as the Bobcats return much of the cast from 2022. The ‘Cats hit a slow stretch before the Alamia Tourney with five losses but performed well at times during the tourney. Hitting has been serviceable, pitching not as much for Toby Gonzalez’ club so far. Junior Jacob Garcia has been a workhorse who leads the team in hits, while several seasoned hands – Ben Gonzalez, Leo Reyes, Leo Kalifa, Andel Saenz, and Ryan Nichols – have the Red and Blue fired up for the league run.
North has not exactly blistered the ball so far but its arms have been sound, with an ERA under 4 heading into the Alamia but a .238 team batting average. Junior infielder Jovan Bernal, a three-year starter, is off to a brisk start, while stocky Alian Palacios and Miguel Martinez are varsity vets seeking to lead the program to the playoffs. Armani Acevedo has been a consistent presence on the hill so far, though the defense has yielded nearly 40 unearned runs. Keep an eye on juniors Luis Villarreal and Joel Silva, and also Federico Cappadona, the football star out now for baseball. Andrew Calderon is a versatile Cougar who can play many positions. The Coogs have an experienced core, like EHS.
Vela does too. Last season, Vela ruled the city with a 6-0 mark against its rivals en route to a 13-3 league mark and the SaberCats have many performers returning in 2023. Bobby Garcia and Jake Dufner, who both signed recently to play college baseball next season, are leading lights, along with the slick infield combo of Jayden Martinez and A.J. Reyes, now juniors. Another known quantity in Blue and Black is lefty Ryan Botello, who has started his senior campaign with some big noise at the plate. Flying around the bases and the outfield, senior Justin Navarro – himself a college signee, in football – will stir things up once again, while a new face, 6-4, 210-pound Santiago Montes, has been impressive early on the bump.
In their latest action, the Sabes (3-0 in 31-5A, 9-5 overall), clobbered McAllen Memorial at home Friday, 10-4. This week they play at Memorial and then against Sharyland, as the district goes for a format where schools play each other twice in a row, often in the same week. In the rout of Memorial, Vela plated seven runs in the second inning to get ahead comfortably, Montes striking out five in 2 2/3 innings of work. Martinez had two hits, Reyes crossed home plate thrice, and sophomore Nick Guevara slammed a pair of doubles.
Botello paces the squad with 15 RBI while Martinez (17 hits) is hitting .486, Reyes checking in at .375 with a team-high 15 runs. Dufner, besides driving in 13 runs in the first 14 outings, has a 2.02 ERA with 24 strikeouts; Montes is 3-1 with a 2.39 ERA and 25 K’s. The team ERA is a nifty 2.82, the batting clip .324, and one believes Vela has a shot to win the trophy in its new league. However, there are some formidable clubs in that loop, including Sharyland and Pioneer. The other McAllen schools, Rowe and McAllen, are perennially solid, making 31-5A a very difficult group.
As for the 6A league, the three city rivals have to deal with P-SJ-A, one of the best programs in the Valley year in and year out, while La Joya (eh, 8-10 so far) has also been a rough customer for many seasons. The wild card is Mission, off to a 3-9 start.
As the Jags began the tournament Thursday, they were loud and active against Brownsville Rivera and Roma, claiming a victory over the latter. Friday the Orange ran into some strong offensive chops from Mission Vets, and nearly defeated Harlingen, losing 3-2 before the clinching day of the Alamia Saturday. They are now 6-11 with Spring Break action on tap against Harlingen and Weslaco followed by bouts with Rivera and Hanna. District play starts March 28 at P-SJ-A. Sanchez’ group is at .248 as a team at the plate, with a 5.18 ERA, Montano leading with 25 K’s, Rodriguez close behind. Rodriguez and Rene Rios are tops in hits while Montano and Hernandez have each driven home seven runs.
Earlier in the season, the Jags worked to a third-place finish at the Brownsville Tournament, beating Hanna and San Benito along the way, and competed well in losses to Palmview and Porter. They surely have the potential to make a run in the league.
As stated, North shows potential too but had its troubles at the tourney and is now 3-12 with four games remaining before league play starts at home versus La Joya March 28. The Coogs will see Rivera, San Benito, Hanna, and Weslaco in the meantime, as the 31-6A clubs get a nice long (early) look at their possible playoff foes from the Lower Valley. The Coogs have held opponents to four runs or less six times but are averaging just 2.9 runs per game, having scored five or more on just three occasions.
The Bobcats, 5-12 so far, defeated San Benito and Roma at the Alamia, dropping a 6-5 decision to Rio Grande City before the final day of fun in the sun, when they were beaten twice. The team will begin league play March 28 at Mission. The ‘Cats have the largest cast of veterans among the city entries, and this experience could be a boon heading forward.