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

Len Hayward
Corpus Christi Caller Times

Incarnate Word Academy baseball player Jamie Baldwin drew some inspiration from Michael Jordan this past summer.

As the pandemic had canceled the 2020 season and time on baseball field was limited, Baldwin decided to connect with some of his teammates to get together at the Angels field and play some baseball. They did everything from play games to do some drills.

But it was a chance to bond as a team and play baseball again, even if it wasn’t fully organized.

“It was during the summer and I asked (IWA) coach (Josh Aguas) for a key and we just started having little practices here, and playing little games,” said Baldwin, a senior on this year’s Angels squad. “It was to have each other ready for the season and now it’s starting to come together.”

Baldwin said he had been watching “The Last Dance” and knowing he was going to be a leader on this year’s squad, he seized on an opportunity.

“I was watching and that really inspired me as a leader and as a player,” Baldwin said. “I wanted to get better for myself but also for my teammates, and I wanted them to be stronger with me.”

IWA baseball team's Jaime Baldwin during practice on Monday, Feb. 8, 2021.

The summer games are six months in the past but for a team that didn’t finish the season and was adding some new players, the work together will be key to its success this season.

The Angels lost a strong senior class from 2020, which included two players who signed with Division I schools and return four starters for 2021. Aguas said the team will take some time developing pitchers and will rely on its offense early in the year.

And even with some new faces in new spots and a developing pitching staff, the goal remains to win a district championship and make a run at the state tournament.

IWA qualified for the state tournament in 2019, and three players return from that team, including Baldwin, along with Colton Anderson and J.P. Lee.

“I think with them coming back, and really bringing that experience as far as with a winning mindset — they learned from that senior group we had, and that state team as far as coming out with a great attitude everyday in wanting to be excellent in everything we do,” Aguas said. “They really brought that out of those younger guys, leading by example, and these guys are leading by example and definitely following in their footsteps.”

And one of those examples was Baldwin organizing the informal practices and games, and he hopes it was the foundation for a solid season.

“We are a young team, but I think we are going to be pretty good,” Baldwin said.

IWA baseball team's coach Josh Aguas during practice on Monday, Feb. 8, 2021.

PRIVATE SCHOOLS

IWA

2020 Record: 4-9-2

District: TAPPS Division II, District 4

Last playoff appearance: 2019

Key players returning: IF Colton Anderson, jr.; 3B Jaime Baldwin, sr.; SS Jordan Barrett, so.; UTIL J.P. Lee, sr.

The scoop on the Angels: IWA lost a strong senior class that included two players that are now playing in college and return four starters from last season’s team. Coach Josh Aguas said the team will rely on its offense early in the season as they work to develop a pitching staff.

JOHN PAUL II

2020 Record: 12-2

District: TAPPS Division II, District 4

Last playoff appearance: 2019

Key players returning: OF-P Aidan Olivo, jr.; OF Chance Dittman, jr.; SS-P Ryan Mejia, jr.; P-1B Alex Flores, jr.

The scoop on the Centurions: Mike Goss takes over the program and the Centurions are hoping to maintain their momentum from a 12-2 start to the 2020 season. Olivo hit .560 last season and Flores was 3-0 as a pitcher with 30 strikeouts. John Paul II will be in contention for a district title.

CLASS 2A

PORT ARANSAS

2020 Record: 6-6

District: 31-2A

Last playoff appearance: 2019

Key players returning: 1B-P Mason Barwise, sr.; 2B Kyler Spaeth, jr.; 3B Tate Stegenga, jr.; SS Sawyer Ulch, jr.; OF Matt Grosedonio, jr.; OF Ryan Ogle, so.; C Davis Spivey, jr.

REFUGIO

2020 Record: 5-3

District: 31-2A

Last playoff appearance: 2019

Key players returning: P-SS Jordan Kelley, jr.; OF-P Ethan Perez, sr.

THREE RIVERS

2020 Record: 3-6

District: 31-2A

Last playoff appearance: 2019

Key players returning: Preston Wallace, sr.; Zach Davis, jr.; Jacob Amaro, so.; Matthew Zamzow, jr.

WOODSBORO

2020 Record: 0-6

District: 31-2A

Last playoff appearance: 2017

Key players returning: P-C Roger Gonzalez, so.; IF-P Aubrey Darringer, so.; IF-P Joseph Singletary, so.

AGUA DULCE

2020 Record: 2-4

District: 32-2A

Last playoff appearance: 2016

Key players returning: P-SS Angel Vera, sr.; OF Ryan Cortinas, sr.; DH-IF Fabian Castilleja, sr.; P-OF Eric Perez, jr.; 2B Noah Estrada, jr.

BEN BOLT

2020 Record: 4-8

District: 32-2A

Last playoff appearance: 2018

Key players returning: 1B-P Lorenzo Soliz, sr.; SS-P David Perez, so.; OF-P Jaime Gonzalez, sr.; OF Ryan Perez, sr.; C-P Dustin Dunlavy, sr.

FREER

2020 Record: n/a

District: 32-2A

Last playoff appearance: 2019

Key players returning: C-P Hondo Bierstedt, sr.; IF EJ Tarango, sr.; OF John Cantu, jr.; OF-P Ryan Buhidar, so.; IF-P Elliott Ramirez, jr.

PREMONT

2020 Record: 4-5

District: 32-2A

Last playoff appearance: 2019

Key players returning: SS-P Marky Gonzalez, sr.; 2B-P Jordan Gonzalez, sr.; OF-P Joey Naranjo, sr.; OF Lukas Rogers, sr.; OF-P Darian Rogers, jr.

RIVIERA

2020 Record: 0-10

District: 32-2A

Last playoff appearance: 2019

Key players returning: IF Joseph Moreno, sr.; IF A.J. Guevara-Duron, sr.

BENAVIDES

2020 Record: n/a

District: 32-2A (Part of 32-2A but are considered a Class A school)

Last playoff appearance: 2016

Key players returning: SS-P Damian Viera, sr.; 1B Andres Hinajosa, sr.; 1B-DH Ryan Guzman, sr.

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