High School Baseball: Young talent has Benavides off to best start since 2011
BENAVIDES –– Benavides might not be a town you can pinpoint on a Texas map, but the high school baseball team is hoping that will change in the near future.
The Eagles are having their best season since 2011, and they're doing it with seven freshman and a first-year head coach.
"Benavides is a baseball town, but in the past we hadn't seen that," said head coach Gilbert Garcia, who graduated from Ben Bolt. "It feels good this year to finally make things possible. Seeing the community come together is a great experience –– especially for the young kids."
Matthew Cadena has been one of the main reasons the Eagles are making noise.
The freshman shortstop has been the team's best hitter, but attributes his success to the players who have laid the foundation before him.
"They've helped me with all of the experience that they have," Cadena said. "They've been playing high school baseball longer than me, and that has helped me. These coaches actually care about us. They make us determined to win."
Cadena is batting more than .500 at the leadoff spot and is also the team's shortstop.
Since picking up a baseball bat at age 3, the Benavides native always wanted to play varsity ball for the Eagles.
"I started playing t-ball at the park here and I've been playing ever since," Cadena said. "It's a good feeling and it's gone by fast. I remember hitting the ball off the tee and now I'm here."
Garcia said Cadena, along with freshman Ruben Pena and junior Edward Hernandez, have continued to grow into more mature players with each game and practice.
At first they didn't talk much but now, they've become some of the most vocal players on the team.
"Matthew is starting to be a leader out there," Garcia said. "He's talking to the other guys and picking them up. It's good to see that out of a freshman. They've all become a big part of this team, and I think Matthew is going to be a big part of this team for the next three years."
Benavides is not only playoff bound, but the team has also been ranked most of the season in the txhsbaseball.com Class 1A poll.
The Eagles are 6-0 in District 32-1A after a 28-7 win against San Perlita on Thursday, clinching an outright district title.
"It's the grind," Garcia said. "The boys get here every morning at 6 a.m. and even on game days. There's no complaints, and everyone has bought into the program. It's great to see it, and the community of Benavides is happy to see the team succeed."
The Eagles knew they had something special after opening the season 4-1 with wins against Riviera, Agua Dulce and Pettus.
Benavides started off by being named the txhsbaseball.com Class 1A team of the week after winning the Riviera Tournament.
"They're very excited and I'm just humbled," Garcia said. "I tell them we still have a lot of work to do, and the kids know what they need to do to put together a historic run. They're not cocky –– they know they still have to practice and take those heavy reps. They know they have to give it their all."
Garcia said he feels the Eagles have all the right pieces to make a run behind his freshman group and the senior leadership of Damian Viera, Andres Hinajosa and Ryan Guzman.
"It gives us motivation and not just baseball but football, too," Garcia said. "They see the hard work these kids put in and it shows the buzz we're creating. The kids have bought into the program, and more kids are wanting to get involved."