Trojans stumble in postseason
By Jason McDaniel
South Houston coach Donnie Elliot expected Brazoswood to present his playoff newcomers with a stiff challenge.
They did exactly that.
The savvy Buccaneers not only challenged the Trojans, who were in the playoffs for the first time in 22 years, they completely shut them down, sweeping the Class 5A area-round series 8-0 and 5-0.
They were really good," Elliot said. It would have taken them being a little off their game and us playing as well as we have all season to win.
We competed, and I thought we played pretty well against them, they just had too many weapons."
And the Trojans were simply too inexperienced.
But after breaking a long playoff drought, they have a little more experience now, and that should pay dividends next season for the ones who are returning, which is why they took the loss easier.
They were hurt, especially the seniors, but they were also pleased," Elliot said. They enjoyed the experience and were happy that they were still playing two or three weeks after the season was over, so that was good for them."
Making the playoffs also was good for Elliot, who's been in the game as a player and coach for a long time now but never had experienced the postseason. He finally did in his seventh season at South Houston.
This will be a special year no matter how long I coach just because this was my first playoff experience, and it was good for the kids to see what it was like," he said.
It wasn't too long ago we were coming in last or second to last and not having very good crowds, so it was good for them to play in front of a lot of people, especially the younger guys, and to play against top-notch programs like Baytown Sterling and Brazoswood."
The Trojans will return seven key players next season but the biggest story for the next month or so will be what ace pitcher Jaime Esquivel does next.
The standout right-hander with a fastball ranging from 88 to 93 mph and a solid breaking ball signed with Rice last summer but he could possibly go high in the MLB First-Year Player Draft this month.
He plans to go to Rice unless a team drafts him and offers him a substantial signing bonus," Elliot said. He would have to consider that, but as or right now he's pretty set on going to play for Rice."
Elliot says they haven't talked numbers, and exactly what it would take for Esquivel to forego Rice. Where he's drafted likely will come down to his perceived signability by the major league scouts.
If they think he'll sign, he could go from the fifth to 10th round. If not and they're likely to be skeptical since he's already signed with a premiere program he could go late, from the 15th to 25th round.
It's hard for teams to draft a kid really high if he's signed with a four-year college," Elliot said. They don't want to waste a pick."
If Esquivel decides to test the minor league waters, he should be prepared. Elliot played six years of minor league baseball.
He also played for Rice coach Wayne Graham at San Jacinto College.
It's an adjustment," Elliot said. It's not just the baseball. It's more mental than anything playing pro ball. I played six years in the minor leagues, and it's long bus rides, it's showing up at the park every single day, going through your routine, it's hot it's hard to adjust at first."
Of course, Esquivel isn't the only Trojans player graduating. They're losing senior first baseman Rafael Santos and the entire outfield: Martin Ramirez, Ryan Rosilez and Regino Rosales.
But third baseman Andres Rangel, who led the team in home runs, is returning, along with catcher Jo Jo Flores, who hit a homer in the seventh inning of Game 1 against Sterling, and shortstop Marco Elizondo.
And while Esquivel is departing Elliot still will have plenty of pitching at his disposal with Junior Ramos and Felipe Morado coming back, along with others players who can pitch, like Rangel.
South Houston also has several players waiting in the wings to help out, including OF Brian Lopez, second baseman Rocky Romero, who missed most of the year with a broken thumb, and Michael Martinez.
We'll definitely compete for a playoff spot," Elliot said. This past year we set our goal to make the playoffs. Next year we're going to make our goal winning district.
I want to keep challenging the kids and set high goals, and getting over that hurdle getting in the playoffs and getting some playoff experiences is going to do wonders for us next year."
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