High School Baseball Class 3A Preview: Sergio Guerra among state's top catching prospects

Len Hayward
Alice Echo News Journal

Juan Mendietta ceded calling pitches to Sergio Guerra during San Diego’s first scrimmage of the 2021 season.

It was the first time in 14 years Mendietta had not called pitches during a game. He left that to the Vaqueros’ catching prospect and it also shows how far the athletic and talented Guerra has come in his time behind the plate.

“It’s trust built from seventh grade,” said Mendietta. “If I’m thinking something, he can look at me and know right there … it’s (almost) second nature. He knows what I want, and he handles it well. In 14 years, I’ve never done that, and I wanted to see what it would be like. It was perfect.”

San Diego baseball player Sergio Guerra, alongside his mother Greta Guerra, signs his letter of intent with University of Texas Rio Grande Valley on Wednesday, Nov. 11, the first day of the early signing period for prospective college athletes

Guerra spent most of his career as a shortstop but about two years ago, his father Pete Guerra, who caught professionally, suggested he become a catcher because it might offer the best chance to play in college or as a pro.

Guerra has shown a propensity for baseball since a young age but catching after so many years in the field was a major change. In the summer of 2019, he decided to try it with his select team based in Houston. He spent the shortened high school season of 2020 at shortstop but caught in the summer and will catch for the Vaqueros this season.

In less than two years, Guerra has become a prospect that professional scouts are very interested in.

“I looked pretty rough back there,” Guerra said of his start in the position. “But my dad started teaching me a lot of the things, like footwork.”

Guerra said one of the harder transitions was the art of receiving the ball, including how to frame pitches and how to block properly. But it was the work he put in with his father that has made a difference.

He has signed with the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley to play baseball, and Mendietta said scouts are consistently calling asking when Guerra will be behind the plate. Plus, that is part of the reason, Mendietta is having him call pitches.

“My dad and I got in the cages everyday and there’s a lot I can improve on,” Guerra said. “I’m a lot better than when I first started, and I’m excited to go to college and work with those coaches there.”

Guerra certainly has shown the skills and toughness needed to be a catcher during his athletic career.

Along with earning multiple honors as a baseball player, Guerra is a three-time all-state selection as a defensive back in football and Mendietta said he played the latter part of the shortened fall 2020 season with a hand injury. Mendietta said he did not hear him complain, and in one game made a game saving tackle with the injury.

Oh, and he pitches, too.

In two seasons of relief work on the mound, Guerra is 5-0 with two saves and 51 strikeouts in 37 innings.

San Diego's Sergio Guerra runs with the ball at the game against Orange Grove, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, in Alice. Orange Grove won, 56-30.

“He’s a unique athlete,” Mendietta said. “It’s been a true pleasure to see his growth in the game, and his commitment to the game.”

Guerra spent much of the summer of 2020 playing in showcases and tournaments across the country, traveling at a time when COVID-19 protocols are in full force. One trip was to play at Fenway Park in Boston in September as part of the New Balance Future Stars Series International Week. Guerra played for the World team as he was joined at the event by Veterans Memorial players Jose Acuna and Daylan Pena.

The experience offered Guerra a chance to gauge where he was as a player along with an opportunity to play at the home of the Boston Red Sox.

“I learned I need to work even harder, a lot harder than I was,” Guerra said. “There was a lot of competition from those guys and I can compete with them, but I need to work a lot harder to be on their level. Going to Boston made me realize it starts now. It’s going to be a grind.”

The focus this spring turns to helping the Vaqueros compete in what is arguably the most competitive Class 3A district in Texas — 30-3A. Guerra hit .333 for San Diego and is one three seniors that have been key contributors since they were freshmen — Brandon Ramirez and Derrick Gonzalez.

Guerra said he knows eyes will be on him this season, but his focus is on helping the Vaqueros earn one of those four playoff spots and eye a playoff run.

“We are a special group of guys this year, I hope we can go out there and shock everybody,” Guerra said. “We hope to show everybody that they projected wrong, and we have a lot of potential this year.”

Odem coach Jason Pfluger has guided the Owls to the area round of the playoffs in Class 3A in 2019.

BREAKING DOWN CLASS 3A

DISTRICT 29-3A

Caller-Times Prediction: 1. Odem; 2. Mathis; 3. George West; 4. Goliad; 5. Orange Grove; 6. Taft; 7. Aransas Pass; 8. Skidmore-Tynan

ARANSAS PASS

2020 Record: 7-7

Last playoff appearance: 2019

Key players returning: 3B-P Christian Adame, sr.; SS Gabe Lozano, jr.; C Eric “Pepper” Garcia, sr.; P Donaven Smith, sr.

The scoop on the Panthers: Four starters return from a squad that started the 2020 season at 7-7 gives Aransas Pass some experience as they work to fill some key roles early in the season. The Panthers should be in the mix for a postseason spot.

GEORGE WEST

2020 Record: 8-5

Last playoff appearance: 2018

Key players returning: 1B Turner Lee, jr.; 2B Caleb Fruge, so.; 3B Charlie Hulsebusch, sr.; SS John Zuniga, sr.; OF Quentin Holmes, so.; OF Weston Rhodes, jr.; C Ryan Thomisee, sr.; P Hondo Goeble, sr.

The scoop on the Longhorns: Jeremy Wheeler takes over the George West program and will have eight returning starters to help his transition. The Longhorns missed out on the postseason in 2019 but have the pieces in place to challenge for a district title.

MATHIS

2020 Record: 6-7

Last playoff appearance: 2018

Key players returning: 1B-P Brenden Salinas, jr.; 2B Joshua Paiz, sr.; 3B-P J.J. Tanguma, so.; SS-P Darion Rodriguez, sr.; OF Matthew Cuellar, sr.; OF Marcus Alvarado, jr.; OF Lucio Gonzales, sr.; C-P Julias Rivas, jr.

The scoop on the Pirates: Mathis returns all of its lineup from the 2020 team and in a wide open district will compete for a playoff spot and a district title. Salinas hit .440 last season, and Rivas hit .472 and also struck out 40 as a pitcher.

ODEM

2020 Record: 11-4

Last playoff appearance: 2019

Key players returning: P-Util. Roy Perez, sr.; P-Util. Jacob Lunas, sr.; P-Util. Marcus Martinez, jr.; P-Util. Kyle Castaneda, jr.; P-Util. Marco Gonzales; P-Util. Elijah Pizana; P-Util. Daniel Lopez

The scoop on the Owls: The Owls picked up in 2020 where they left on if 2019 before the season ended and return seven starters from a team that could be a favorite to win the district title. Odem will have an experienced pitching staff and they also have another year in coach Jason Pfluger’s system.

ORANGE GROVE

2020 Record: 4-10

Last playoff appearance: 2018

Key players returning: C Tyler Barr, sr.; P-IF Izaiah Botello, sr.; Preston Wright, sr.; P-Util. Ethan Acosta, jr.; P-OF Gabe Moreno, jr.; So. Layton Rodriguez

The scoop on the Bulldogs: Orange Grove makes the move to Class 3A with some key players returning that could make a difference in what could be a tight district race.

SKIDMORE-TYNAN

2020 Record: 3-7

Last playoff appearance: 2005

Key players returning: 3B Keegan Westmoreland; SS Sonny Mann; OF Michael Menchaca; C Joe Guerra

The scoop on the Bobcats: Coach Rene Silva enters his second season as the Bobcats have some rebuilding to do with one starter and four letterman returning.

TAFT

2020 Record: 9-6

Last playoff appearance: 2019

Key players returning: C-P Sean Suarez, sr.; P-SS Joshua Suarez, so.; 3B-P Steven Rivera, so.; OF Jarek Martinez, sr.

The scoop on the Greyhounds: Taft had a solid start to the 2020 season it was canceled, and are looking carry some of that momentum into 2021. Five starters return from the team, including Joshua Suarez who was 3-0 as a pitcher.

Bishop's head coach Mike Medina talks to his players during practice Wednesday, May 3, 2017, at Bishop High School in Bishop.

DISTRICT 30-3A

Caller-Times Prediction: 1. Bishop; 2. Banquete; 3. San Diego; 4. Falfurrias; 5. Hebbronville; 6. Santa Gertrudis Academy; 7. London

BANQUETE

2020 Record: 9-3-1

Last playoff appearance: 20-19

Key players returning: P-Util. Josh Moreno, sr.; P-SS Mason Vasquez, jr.; C-P Mark Lopez, so.; OF Nate Herrera, so.

The scoop on the Bulldogs: The Bulldogs return an experienced club that looks to challenge for a district title against rival Bishop. Vasquez was 2-0 as a pitcher last season with 11 RBI, and Moreno his .306 and had nine steals.

BISHOP

2020 Record: 7-6

Last playoff appearance: 2019

Key players returning: 2B Marcos Hernandez; 3B-P Ruben Rendon; SS-P Brian Buchanan; OF Tye Odom; OF Jordan Lopez; OF D.J. Reyna

The scoop on the Badgers: The state-ranked Badgers have plenty of experience returning, including Odom who was a key part of the 2019 team in its deep playoff run. Bishop is a district title favorite and will use the non-district schedule to grow up as a team.

LONDON

2020 Record: 11-5

Last playoff appearance: 2016

Key players returning: 2B Mason Arispe, so.; SS John Martinez, sr.; OF Konner Kuypers, sr.; OF Corbin Egebrecht, sr.; OF Darren Lewallen, jr.; C Jayden Martinez, jr.; P Kade Budd, jr.; P Zach Britton, sr.

The scoop on the Pirates: The pieces are in place for the Pirates to make a run at their first playoff berth since 2016 with two key pitchers returning and the core of their lineup. Budd was 4-0 with a 0.82 ERA in 2020 and Britton struck out 18 in 13 innings in 2020.

FALFURRIAS

2020 Record: 12-1

Last playoff appearance: 2019

Key players returning: 1B-P Noah Sanchez, sr.; 2B Patrick Nunez, jr.; SS Michael Ramirez, jr.; OF-P Marc Cantu, sr.; OF Jayden Menchaca, jr.; C-P Jose Maldonado, so.

The scoop on the Jerseys: The bulk of the Jerseys’ pitching staff returns along with its much of its lineup for a team that started the shortened 2020 season 12-1. Nunez hit .531 last season and Cantu hit .556 and was 4-0 with a 1.37 ERA as a pitcher.

HEBBRONVILLE

2020 Record: 4-6

Last playoff appearance: 2018

The scoop on the Longhorns: Hebbronville will be looking for its playoff berth since 2018 in one of the area’s toughest district’s.

SAN DIEGO

2020 Record: 9-5

Last playoff appearance: 2019

Key players returning: C Sergio Guerra, sr.; OF-P Brandon Ramirez, sr.; OF-P Derrick Gonzalez, sr.

The scoop on the Vaqueros: Guerra, Ramirez and Gonzalez are all multi-year starters and the core of a Vaqueros team that is looking to challenge for a district title. Guerra, a UTRGV signee, is one of the state’s top catching prospects and Ramirez has recently signed with Texas A&M-Kingsville.

SANTA GERTRUDIS ACADEMY

2020 Record: 6-4

Last playoff appearance: 2018

Key players returning: P-SS-CF Jacob Espinoza, sr.; C-3B Aidyn Cadena, sr.; P-1B Ty Donnel, sr.; P-SS-2B Nico Jaramillo, Jr.; P-OF Ryan Carrillo, so.

The scoop on the Lions: Veterans coach Frank Galvan takes over the program this season and will have some experience to work with, including seven returning starters.

High School Baseball:Young IWA squad eyes return to state tournament

Len Hayward is a USA Today Sports Network Region sports director and the Caller-Times sports editor. Support more coverage like this by checking out our subscription options and special offers at Caller.com/subscribe