Small-school team wins 31st Valley-Hi Optimists game
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It only took Jongregory Gonzales one at-bat at the 31st Valley-Hi Optimist Club high school baseball all-star game to demonstrate why he was a key member of Brackenridge’s team the last three years.
Gonzales walked with one out in the third inning and scored the go-ahead run for the victorious Sub-5A team on an error with one out in the third. The Brack senior and his teammates defeated the Class 5A/Private School team 6-4 last Saturday at the Frank Tejeda Complex.
“It’s a great opportunity to showcase your talent,” said Gonzales, who hopes to make the University of Texas-San Antonio team as a non-scholarship player. “To show scouts and people you can play baseball.
“Every pitcher did well. The pitching surprised me. I didn’t think they’d be that good.”
The game, after all, is intended as a showcase for the area’s best senior players – as well as an opportunity to help the Optimists to generate scholarships for worthy students.
Nine area players, representing eight schools, competed in the game. Players were divided along classification lines, creating a David-and-Goliath situation. In previous years, it was an East vs.West game.
“I was kind of intimidated (by 5A) when I was watching in-and-out ,” Lanier’s Hector DeHoyos said, referring to pre-game warm-ups, “but when we scored in the first inning, I knew we were good.”
Gonzales primarily was a courtesy runner as a freshman. Throughout his career, his speed has presented problems for opponents. It was 5A’s turn.
With the score 1-1, Gonzales drew a base on balls and stole second. Sub-5A’s Bubba Miculka, Seguin’s ace pitcher who had dueled Antonian left-hander Troy Garcia on even terms, hit a misplayed grounder that sparked a three-run rally by sending the Eagles runner home.
“When I got those four balls,” said Gonzales, who singled later, “I just wanted to make them make a throw.”
Jacob Arevalo of Pleasanton was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and Michael DeLeon of Brennan hit a sacrifice fly for a 4-1 lead. DeHoyos kept the 5A team scoreless over the fourth and fifth innings.
Fittingly, the relief stint ended when DeHoyos retired his namesake – 5A outfielder Hector DeHoyos of Holmes – for the final out in the top half of the fifth.
It, therefore, seemed eerily appropriate when the other DeHoyos made a diving catch in left field on a sinking fly ball from Randolph’s Colin Toth that ended the fifth with a Sub-5A runner on third base.
“It felt good to be out there with these great players,” the pitching DeHoyos said. “I felt like I pitched a good game. My curve ball and change-up were working. As long as I could get ground balls, my team was there to help.
“I was throwing bullpens last week, just to get ready.”
The teams traded runs in the first two innings.
Donaldo Perez – who shares his name with his father, Somerset’s coach – broke the ice after lining a base hit that got by the 5A outfielder for a two-base error in the first inning. Perez then scored the unearned run on a passed ball.
By the way, the elder Donaldo Perez was an assistant to Sub-5A coach Romeo Barrera of Burbank.
Garcia reached base on an error in the second inning and scored after reaching third on a passed ball. Brandon Colorado (MacArthur) supplied the tying RBI single for 5A.
Central Catholic right-hander Josh Godfrey, who singled for 5A in the fourth, gave his team a chance to win by allowing just one sub-5A run between the fourth and sixth.
“It was very exciting to get that one hit,” Godfrey said. “Then I could go pitch with a lot of momentum going into the next inning.”
Godfrey said he didn’t realize he’d signed on for such strenuous duty, but was a willing volunteer when 5A coach Xavier Garcia of Brandeis asked him if he felt like pitching..
“I didn’t really expect it,” said Godfrey, who may try to earn a spot on the Blinn Junior College team, “but the coach asked me if I could. I said I’d love to do it. He said, ‘Go in now.’
“I felt pretty good. It was pretty exciting, seeing guys from all around the city. It was a really phenomenal experience.”
O’Connor’s Billy Craft made it 4-2 in the sixth with a double to right-center, drving in Enrique Ruiz (Brandeis) and enabling the 5A group to set up a rousing finish. It was the only run Memorial pitcher Ivan DeAnda surrendered, while striking out five and giving up four hits over three innings.
Sub-5A had added a little bit of cushion in the sixth when Brandon Kerr (Somerset) scored after drawing a walk. Gonzales and Somerset teammate Kevin Vasquez moved Kerr along with base hits, allowing the utility player to take home on a wild pitch.
DeAnda helped his own cause by slamming an opposite-field double in the bottom of the eighth. DeHoyos followed with a sacrifice fly that brought in Victor Gonzalez (Natalia) for a 6-2 advantage.
The Lanier standout, who intends to try to walk on at Sul Ross State University, understood his role with one out, runners on second and third and his team looking for an insurance run.
“It felt good,” he said. “With runners in scoring position, I was always taught to hit it to the right side and try to get the run in.”
In the ninth, facing a 6-2 deficit, 5A’s Adrian Lopez (Jay) and Jameal Wolford (Wagner) reached base on errors ahead of an RBI single from Trevor Antrim (Lee). A walk to Taft’s Michael Hernandez loaded the bases with one out.
Kennedy’s Isiaha Garcia took a throw at first base as a run scored on a ground out, pulling 5A within 6-4. Garcia checked for Antrim, wheeled and fired home to complete a game-ending double play.
“I saw (the grounder) go to second base,” Garcia said. “They had bases loaded, so I knew they’d try for two more. As soon as I caught it, I looked and I could see the coach was sending the runner, sure enough. As soon as I threw it, I knew I had him.”
Garcia, a standout tight end during football season, was glad to be selected from tryouts for the game.
“I had fun,” the prospective St. Philip’s College student said. “It was a good group of guys. It was nice to see old friends and make new friends. There were a lot of friendly people here.”
Proceeds from the game went toward the Optimist Club scholarship fund.
Valley-Hi Optimists All-Star Game
Central Catholic – Josh Godfrey; East Central – Russell Brown.
Brackenridge – Jongregory Gonzales; Burbank – Jonathan Alanis, Tristan Settles; Highlands – Steven Martinez; Kennedy – Isiaha Garcia; Lanier – Hector DeHoyos; Memorial – Ivan DeAnda.