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Lamar ignores preseason forecasts, turns into state's No. 1 team

05/07/2017, 6:30pm CDT
By Jason McDaniel

Texans began season unranked but start postseason as 6A's No. 1 team

Lamar was the ultimate underdog.

It returned only two players and lost eight to college teams, including pitchers John Doxakis (Texas A&M), Jimmy Winston (Baylor) and Mark Tindall (Trinity), and catcher Charlie Bartlett (Houston).

Now it's expected to topple any and all comers.

The Texans, unranked in the preseason, enter the postseason as Texas High School Baseball's No. 1 Class 6A team after steadily climbing the ranks all season with chemistry and determination.

"The senior class took it upon themselves to be as competitive as possible," coach David Munoz said. "The challenge at the start of the year was to play good baseball, and the kids didn't see this as a rebuilding year.

"They thought we could step up, and we believed we had the pitching and defense to compete."

Munoz prefers the underdog role. It relieves pressure and puts a target on the other guy's back, and everybody wants to bring down Goliath.

But he's also proud of their accomplishments and says they understand that rankings create energy and excitement - two things on which they thrive - but they don't win ballgames. That sentiment is courtesy of the leadership of his returners, seniors Owen Holt and Cameron Gibbons.

\"We talk about rankings," Munoz said. "The kids bring it up.

"But Owen Holt sent a group text to the kids saying rankings are great, but it's like trying to have dessert before you eat dinner.

"Let's finish dinner and then have dessert."

Perfect district run

The results indicate they understand the process - and know when it's time to eat.

Without a marquee Division I player - Holt's headed to Harvard for football and Gibbons signed with Blinn - the Texans (25-2-1) one-upped last year's club, equaling its win total before the playoffs and going undefeated in District 18-6A en route to their first title since 2013.

"It was good to win it this year," Munoz said. "It was unexpected, but the kids have done a great job going game-to-game, and it's not easy. I know people say it's HISD, but it's not easy going 14-0.

"It's never easy to run your district."

The Houston ISD doubt underlines the big question - were the Texans tested enough?

Munoz says yes.

He doesn't believe HISD baseball is as bad as people think, and regardless, their non-district slate, with games against Coppell, Georgetown and Brenham, prepared them for playoff competition.

"Our non-district schedule was brutal," Munoz said.

the Texans possess the most important tool for postseason success - pitching depth.

Pitchers Jacob Millender, Michael Streitman and Lawrence Sandoval are the consistent starters, Barron Brown and Jacob Rothenberg are effective relievers, and Holt loves closing close contests.

Together, they produced eight shutouts and three one-run performances.

Millender fanned 15 in a 3-0 win over Bellaire on April 21. He's a 6-4, 215-pound righthander with a 90 mph fastball who Munoz expects will end up playing Division I baseball.

"He's very projectable," Munoz said. "He's a big kid, throws hard, and has a great curveball."

Not shabby at the plate

The Texans swing it, too.

Holt, a vocal leader who mans first and bats cleanup, boasts a .396 batting average with 22 RBIs and five home runs, and Gibbons, a shortstop and leader by example, is hitting .400 batting third.

Holt and Streitman, a pitcher/DH hitting .457, pace the team in two-out RBIs.

Second baseman Chris Gutierrez, the leadoff batter, is hitting .400 with just four strikeouts in 96 at-bats.

"Between Gibbons and Gutierrez … we've got close to 200 at-bats, and they have less than 10 strikeouts combined," Munoz said.

Pitching, clutch hitting, solid defense - that's why they're a consensus No. 1.

Not only are they Texas High School Baseball's No. 1, they're the top-ranked team in the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association's 6A poll - and fifth in MaxPreps' Xcellent 25 national rankings.

Now it's time to play like favorites in their favorite time of the year. Lamar opens the playoffs in a bi-district series with Cypress Falls, beginning at 5 p.m. Friday at Cy-Fair.

"I'm hoping we play good baseball," Munoz said. "Everybody in Cy-Fair plays the game well, so we're going to have to have our 'A' game. If we continue to do the things we've done all year, in three games, hopefully pitching will give us an advantage."


Jason McDaniel is a freelance writer.

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