Related topics

Tomball Memorial baseball moves forward after team ‘turned it around’

May 5, 2019 GMT

Head coach Monte Huggins helped launch the baseball program when Tomball Memorial opened in the 2011-12 school year.

Since then, the Wildcats have experienced success, including playoff runs to the regional finals in 2014-15 and most recently 2017-18.

The toughest obstacle the squad had to overcome this past season was starting off the season 1-11.

“When we were 1-11, my mom got admitted to the hospital with lung cancer,” Huggins said. “It’s been a tough road for me, and these guys, it seems like when that happened took it upon themselves to help me out and they have done nothing but absolutely get after it since that’s happened.”

Heading into the 2018-19 season, the coaching staff knew they were going to have their work cut out for them after moving up from Class 5A to 6A.

In District 20-5A, the Wildcats placed fifth in 2015 and 2016 in one of the toughest districts in the state.

Having to face seven of the CFISD schools, after realignment, meant having to partake in more competitive bouts.

Tomball Memorial (16-16-1, 12-4) was placed in District 14-6A where they finished in a tie for second place with Cy Woods but lost the series 0-2. Cy Ranch placed first and Bridgeland fourth. There was also Langham Creek, Cy Springs, Cy Lakes, Cy Park and Bryan.

“When you’re going against teams that have anywhere from 3,000-3,500 kids you just got to out-work them,” Huggins said. “It’s been a challenge, that’s for sure, because it seems like almost any night anybody can beat anybody.

“You don’t go in with your A-game every time, you can get beat that’s for sure.”

More than just a game

In 2017-18, the Wildcats ended up losing to Kingwood Park 2-1 in the fifth round and lost to Tomball 2-1 in 2014-15.

The team was a win away from a state tournament berth, and had to do a lot of searching following last year’s exit.

“And when I say searching, I’m talking about amongst ourselves,” Huggins said. “Last year’s group, of course, was very extremely talented. I’m not saying that this group is not, but last year’s group had a lot of leadership, along with talent.”

The Wildcats played in some very tough tournaments this past preseason.

Some of the tournaments featured the Atascocita/Kingwood and Lamar Consolidated, and then they played in their own tournament that has a lot of tough teams in it.

“When you talk about scheduling and everything else, I’m a firm believer in going in and going through the fire from the get go,” Huggins said. “Rather than trying to play some easy teams and then wind up paying for it later when district starts.”

As a result, Tomball Memorial went from being 1-11 to 12-12 by winning 15 of the next 17. The only setbacks were a 3-3 tie vs. Tomball and 7-6 loss to Bridgeland. They also split the series with Cy Ranch 1-1.

“We turned it around,” Huggins said. “But I think the biggest thing, as far as what’s different from last year, we were so used to having guys like Dru Baker and John Chomko and some of those guys, we were always used to leaning on them. …We figured that out, that’s probably been the biggest challenge.”

The Wildcats’ expectations are always going to be high, no matter the circumstances or the fact that they lost a dozen seniors last year.

“Our ultimate goal is to get to Round Rock,” Huggins said. “Our main thing is to get to playoffs every year.”

In the first round of the 18-19 playoffs, Tomball Memorial faced off against Stony Point. In game one, the Wildcats lost 5-0 as the offense tallied only three hits, while Cole Rodriguez took the mound. In game two, the Tigers finished off the sweep 5-1 to claim the bi-district championship.

Hitting reset button

Before every inning, game, pitch, and before and after practice the Wildcats break it out on family.

“The guys, they certainly believe that, that they have each others backs, not only each other but even the coaches,” Huggins said. “When hardships come upon the coaches, they’re there for us, just like they know we’ll be there for them when times get tough too.”

There are 14 seniors on the roster. Some of the returners who embraced the leadership role include outfielder/pitcher Jordan Grice, pitcher/first baseman Cole Rodriguez, infielder Austin Roccaforte, catcher/pitcher Jared Harris and outfielder Matt Martin.

“I have a lot of seniors, I’d hate to point out just a few of them because its been quite a few of them that have stepped up,” Huggins said.

Out of the 14, about eight of them were part of the regional finalist squad a year ago. There’s also 3B/OF/P Logan Kilpatrick, P/DH/1B Tim Williamson SS/2B/P Bren Oestrike, 3B/INF/DH Blake Kirchgessner, INF/OF Mason Holmes, OF Brenden Van Duzer, 1B/OF Carsen Thor, OF/INF/P Tyler Rich and C/1B/DH Caleb Henry.

“We’re a very senior-heavy ball team,” Huggins said.

Nevertheless, the next couple of years look bright.

The underclassmen include junior P/OF Grant McPherson, P Luke Sebesta, INF Brendan Buczkowski, C/INF/P Ryan Padfield, P/INF Colin Purcell and OF Holden Burrows. There’s also sophomore C/3B Jad Oestrike and freshman SS/2B/P Robert Oropeza.

“I have a freshman class this year that’s probably one of the most talented freshman classes I’ve had since being here,” Huggins said. “There’s a lot more than just saying you got the talent, you got to be able to do something with it too later down the road. …The future is definitely very promising.”