Updated: Jul 23, 2020
Editor's note: College Baseball Nation is joined by guest writer, Riley Zayas, for coverage of the Texas Collegiate League. Riley Zayas is a high school freshman and freelance journalist from Round Rock, Texas. He began his journalism career as a Sports Illustrated Kid reporter and has since become a regular contributor to Horns Illustrated, covering Texas Longhorn sports. His work also includes Fellowship of Christian Athletes publications, his personal blog 360 Sports, and Sports Spectrum, a national christian sports magazine and website. He is passionate about all things sports, and can be followed on Twitter at @ZayasRiley.
IH-35 series: part one, sees San Antonio sweep Round Rock
The stifling Texas heat did not slow the hot-hitting from both the San Antonio Flying Chanclas and Round Rock Hairy Men when the two South division rivals met in a weekend series. Dubbed the IH-35 rivalry because of the interstate that runs through the two Texas cities, these proved to be three crucial games because of the standing implications in the ever-competitive South division.
Coming into the series, Round Rock was in first place, with a 6-3 record after sweeping Victoria at home. San Antonio was two games back with a 4-4 record, as the Flying Chanclas had dropped both games against Acadiana in a midweek, three-game set in which the first was canceled due to rain.
Both sides had vocal dugouts throughout the series, as Saturday’s game was played in Round Rock and Friday and Sunday’s showdowns were played in the “City of the Alamo”. Whether it was at home or away, it did not seem to matter, as momentum shifted back and forth through all three games.
In game one, the Flying Chanclas outhit the Hairy Men, 10-6. For the most part, Round Rock was playing from behind, a result of an early deficit accumulated by the defense and starter Jacob Ashkinos, four earned runs over two innings. Only five hits were allowed for the remainder of the game by the bullpen, but it was enough for San Antonio to earn the 7-2 victory.
The second meeting between the two had 787 fans in attendance, the highest number for the Hairy Men thus far, and about 1,710 less than the max capacity, with social distancing measures in place. In the bottom of the second, Houston’s Ryan Hernandez swatted a double down the left field line and later came around to score on a Kyle Froemke RBI single, scoring the game’s first run. San Antonio’s offense took a little longer to get going, but soon enough, the Flying Chanclas found themselves ahead 5-2, after a two-run fifth and a Leyton Barry RBI double in the sixth. While starter Luke Malone allowed just one hit over 3.2 innings pitched, the bullpen struggled against the potent San Antonio offense. Six different relievers toed the rubber, three of those giving up at least one run. Four errors did not help Round Rock’s cause. Things quickly unwinded in the ninth. The Flying Chanclas held a 9-3 lead, but added to that on a single Grant Smith with the bases loaded, scoring two. Following that, Round Rock could not get an out, as San Antonio put together three consecutive RBI singles through the infield gaps, widening the margin to 13-3. Normally a catcher, Vannoy found himself on the mound to close out the game. He did allow one hit, which loaded the bases and scored one, before he struck out Leyton Barry to end the inning.
In the series finale on Sunday night in San Antonio, the Flying Chanclas again got off to a quick start, holding a 3-1 lead after four innings, while Round Rock’s offense sputtered against great pitching from Sam Houston State’s Lance Lusk, who threw four innings, allowed a single hit, and a run, although it was unearned. On the day, San Antonio’s pitching held Round Rock to a mere four hits, as they took home the series sweep by a score of 6-1.
Up next, San Antonio travels to Victoria for a three game set against the Generals, while Round Rock returns home to play six straight games at the Dell Diamond.
These two teams will clash once again from July 31-August 2 in the final weekend of the season.
Offensive outbursts lead the way
Tuesday night gave way to two offensive outbursts as the Hairy Men put up 19 runs on the Victoria Generals and the Amarillo Sod Dogs scored 21 against Texarkana. Each won the series thanks to phenomenal performances at the plate in the opener.
Amarillo’s Eniruqe Porchas, who plays for Bethune-Cookman, went 3-for-5 on the day, two of those hits being home runs. He also scored twice. His teammate, TCU’s Kurtis Byrne, went a perfect 2-for-2, with an impressive four RBI.
For Round Rock, only six players had hits, but five of those had multiple hits, including Baylor outfielder Jared McKenzie, who went 2-for-5 with two runs scored. Cody Vannoy, the catcher from Tarleton State, scored once, and had three hits, not to mention, three RBI. Ryan Hernandez swatted the game’s only home run deep over the left field wall.
Marcano Twins lead the Sod Squad
Since they were in high school, the Marcano twins, David and Julio, have starred for the same team.
In high school, it was Obra D. Tompkins High in Katy, Texas. In college, it has been up north for the New Jersey Institute of Technology Highlanders, where both are heading into their senior year. Now, this summer in the TCL, it has been for the Amarillo Sod Squad, a team on which the twins have become focal parts of the offense.
With two weeks of the season complete, they are in the top three in batting average, Julio second with .333, David in third, .300. Each has scored seven times, good enough for third in that category, while Julio has also swatted two home runs.
Also great students in the classroom, both are mechanical engineering majors on track to graduate next year, although both have an additional year of eligibility due to the 2020 baseball season being canceled due to Covid-19. NJIT will begin its first season in the 10-team America East Conference next spring.
Hitter of the Week: Ryan Hernandez, 1B, Houston, Round Rock
The soft-spoken, Amherst, Massachusetts native carries a big stick, and it showed in his outburst of home runs this past week. Over the course of six games, the junior out of Houston hit .473 with three home runs, and 7 RBI. His power fueled a 19-run outburst by the Hairy Men as the team opened the home schedule against Victoria on Tuesday night. In that huge win to begin the week, Hernandez went 3-for-5 with three runs scored, two extra base hits and four RBI. It was also the debut of the “Trojan helmet”, something the team brought back from Amarillo and is given to each player who hits a home run. Hernanez was the first to wear the helmet, which he says has given the team motivation on offense.
After the 14-3 loss on Saturday night to San Antonio, I caught up with Hernandez to talk about hitting with a wood bat, his week at the plate, and the story behind the trojan helmet.
Pitcher of the Week: Arturo Guajardo, UTSA, San Antonio
Guajardo was superb for San Antonio, as the Flying Chanclas won the key series against Round Rock. The Laredo, Texas native came in relief in game one of the weekend showdown with the Hairy Men, and tossed three scoreless innings, allowing just one baserunner. He earned the win, his first of the season, and preceded that with 2.2 innings of scoreless work last Sunday night. Not to mention, he struck out five of the ten batters faced against the Hairy Men.
San Antonio Flying Chanclas (7-4)- The top spot in these rankings was hard to select, however, the quality of teams that the Chanclas defeated combined with a three game win streak put San Antonio just ahead of the Amarillo Sod Dogs and Tulsa Drillers. The Flying Chanclas jumped up two spots in our rankings, as they came into the weekend showdown against one of the league’s hottest teams in the Round Rock Hairy Men and swept what was previously the south division’s first place squad.
Amarillo Sod Dogs (7-5)- The Sod Dogs fared quite well, but struggled at times such as in the series’ finale against Frisco, where they fell 6-3. Despite this, going 4-2 on the week and holding the lead in the North division standings for another week earns the Sod Dogs second place in these rankings.
Brazos Valley Bombers (6-3)- With a midweek bye, the Bombers have played three games less than the majority of the league’s teams, but have continued to hold first place in the South division standings. Over the weekend, the Bombers won their third series of the season, meaning Brazos Valley has now won every series they have played this season. The fall from first to third is partially due to the midweek bye but will be ironed out after next week’s games.
Round Rock Hairy Men (6-6)- The Hairy Men started the week off as one of the TCL’s hottest teams, sweeping the Victoria Generals in the opening homestand, including a 19-run outburst in game one of the series. However, the squad quickly cooled off in the road-home-road series against San Antonio over the weekend. The offense faltered, as Round Rock was outscored 27-6.
Tulsa Drillers (7-5)- The squad from Oklahoma won the final two games of the midweek series at home versus the Amarillo Sod Squad, before falling in the first two games of a road series at Victoria. Although the Drillers did earn an 8-5 victory in the series finale, the inconsistency against two middle-of-the-pack opponents slotted them as the last of the teams with seven wins. The Drillers retain the same position as they did in last week’s power rankings.
Amarillo Sod Squad (5-4)- Tied with Tulsa for second place in the North division, the Sod Squad went 3-3 on the week, facing top competition in Tulsa, although the loss to Texarkana on Sunday came as a surprise. They aren’t a power-hitting group (.370 team slugging percentage) but find ways to get on base (.380 team on-base percentage).
Victoria Generals (5-7)- The Generals have talent, and against two quality teams in the Tulsa Drillers and Round Rock Hairy Men, it showed. While Round Rock swept them early on in the week, the Generals went 2-1 against Tulsa winning a key series against their only North division opponent of the year.
Acadiana Cane Cutters (4-7)- There were expectations that the Cane Cutters would rebound from a 1-5 start this week. That did not prove to be the case, as Acadiana struggled at the plate (.237 team batting average this week). While the squad earned the series victory against San Antonio, the South division’s first-place ballclub, Brazos Valley took the Cane Cutters down over the weekend, winning the series two games to one.
Texarkana Twins (3-9)- The Twins fall back one slot from last week’s rankings as a result of a 2-4 record for the week. Pitching continues to be a weak spot, as the Twins’ have registered a 9. 34 ERA heading into next week’s games.
Frisco Roughriders (3-9)- Returning to action after six games were forfeited due to Covid-19 concerns, the Roughriders won the second and third games of the season against the Sod Dogs of Amarillo, but remain a distant fifth in the north standings. That is a direct result of six forfeits over this past week.
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