SAN ANTONIO (Jan. 20, 2020) - Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) baseball had its best season to date last year, and Head Coach Bryan Aughney is hopeful to improve upon that.
"Last year, we had a ton of success with the highest conference finish to date; we got over that 30 win mark. Looking ahead to 2020, those expectations have now been set, so for us to continue that trajectory is just to continue to improve player development-wise, which is right in line with what we want to do."
Aughney, now in his third year as head coach, is joined by Assistant Coach Jeremy Flores and Team Chaplain Cristopher Robinson – both of whom were part of the inaugural season in 2015. Other coaches include Volunteer Assistants Mike Light and Nate Gunty and Student Assistant TJ Kassner.
According to Aughney, LSU-Shreveport is going to be the front runner in the Red River Athletic Conference. "They return the majority of their offensive lineup back and they've recruited some good arms, as well. We have to go to their place this year, so it will be the first time in three years we are headed there." Shreveport has won six regular season and six tournament titles, while Alexandria has notched three regular-season titles and one tournament title.
"Alexandria is always a formidable opponent and very athletic. Coach Adams does a good job with them, and we have to go to their place, as well."
Aughney also cited Texarkana, Jarvis Christian, Texas College and Southwest as strong conference opponents.
"There's really no off-week in the conference. If we want to do the things we want to do and achieve the goals we've set for ourselves, we can't afford to take any weekend off," Aughney explained.
The Red River Athletic Conference preseason poll that was released last November has the Saints picked to finish third with 26 points. LSU-Shreveport (LSUS) (22-5/47-13) received the top ranking with 11 points, followed by LSU-Alexandria (LSUA) (18-9/32-25) with 22 points, Jarvis Christian College (JCC) (14-13/36-25) with 33 points, Texas A&M University – Texarkana (TAMUT) (14-13/27-30) with 45 points, the University of the Southwest (USW) (11-16/30-23) with 59 points, the University of Houston-Victoria (UHV) (10-17/14-31) with 63 points, Texas College (14-13/25-32) with 65 points, Huston-Tillotson University (HTU) (5-22/11-43) with 85 points and Wiley College (8-19/19-27) with 86 points.
LSUS is the only RRAC team to be included in the NAIA Baseball Coaches' Top 25 Preseason Poll as No. 12. Last season, LSUS captured the regular-season title, as well as the tournament trophy after defeating Jarvis Christian College in the two championship games, 4-3 and 19-11. The Pilots went on to nationals, where they lost two games, 7-10 to Bellevue University and 12-15 to Columbia, to end their season.
[Numbers in parenthesis indicate all-time records.)
The Saints start their preseason with 19 games against five nationally ranked teams. The men will host the first 11 games at home Jan. 24-25 against No. 3 University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma (5-6), Jan. 31-Feb. 1 against No. 20 Central Methodist University (3-3) and Feb. 7-8 against (RV) Tabor College (first match up). They will be on the road Feb. 14 against No. 17 Texas Wesleyan University (3-4) and Feb. 15 against No. 7 Bellevue University (first match up). After a four-game home series against Midland University (4-4), the Saints kick off their conference schedule against the University of the Southwest (11-6) in Hobbs, N.M.
"Our first 19 games is a meat grinder," Aughney said. "The idea behind it is if we want to be a good ball team, we've got to play good ball clubs. So playing those teams early will get us ready for the conference. Hopefully, if we play the way we are capable of playing, and if we can come out of those 19 games with a good record I think it gives us a good opportunity to get nationally recognized."
Leading the way for the returners this year is senior Jose Diaz (SR/Pinar del Rio, Cuba), who broke several OLLU records last season. He is now the career leader in at-bats (521), runs (106), hits (163), doubles (30), RBIs (102), total bases (231) and stolen bases (48). Five games in, he will have played in the most games in OLLU baseball history (now 153; record is 158).
Other returning seniors include Mick Hernandez (SR/San Antonio, Texas), Xavier Solis (SR/Victoria, Texas), Robert Lopez (SR/San Antonio, Texas), Joey Baker (SR/Cuero, Texas) and Matt Mihalov (SR/Conroe, Texas); juniors include Ryan Chapa (JR/Corpus Christi, Texas), Ty Cook (JR/Highlands, Texas), Andrew Ogletree (JR/Mission, Texas), Jorge Collazo Jr. (JR/San Antonio, Texas), Triston Scherer (JR/Crosby, Texas), Alex Martinez, Jacob Mitchell (JR/Harker Heights, Texas ), Adrian Gonzalez Jr. (JR/Weslaco, Texas), Logan Garza (JR/Round Rock, Texas), Jose Ramirez III (JR/Weslaco, Texas) and Alex Garza (JR/Cypress, Texas); sophomores include Boedy Flores (SO/Harlingen, Texas), Bryce Putnam (SO/Baytown, Texas), Daniel Melecio (SO/San Antonio, Texas), Layne Klostermann (SO/Raymondville, Texas), Matthew Klar (SO/San Antonio, Texas), Jacob Montejano (SO/San Antonio, Texas), Noah Rodriguez (SO/Victoria, Texas) and Brett Vasquez (SO/Baytown, Texas).
Returning pitchers include Baker, Cook, A. Garza, L. Garza, Hernandez, Ramirez, Gonzalez, Klostermann, Martinez, Melecio, Scherer and Vasquez. Incoming pitchers include Javier De Alejandro (FR/San Antonio, Texas), Aidan Cantu (FR/Bulverde, Texas), Connor Harlan (SO/Harlingen, Texas), Jonathan Jimenez (JR/Victoria, Texas), John B. Ortega II (FR/Harlingen, Texas) and Alexander Sosa (FR/Lockhart, Texas).
Other newcomers this year include junior Robert Arredondo (JR/Corpus Christi, Texas); sophomore Connor Dayton (SO/San Antonio, Texas); freshmen Francisco Martinez (FR/San Antonio, Texas), Justin Rodriguez (FR/Pearland, Texas), Kenneth Rodriguez (FR/Killeen, Texas), Tyler Vivier (FR/San Antonio, Texas) and Nico Ybarra (FR/San Benito, Texas). Miguel Galindo (FR/Jourdanton) and Sebastian Ledezma (FR/Los Fresnos, Texas) will be red-shirting this year.
"The academic side is probably the most important piece to what we do," Aughney said. "We talk about grades every day; we hold guys accountable for their study hours and grade checks. It's built into our culture now and guys know when they come here, they are going to be held to a higher standard not only on the field but also in the classroom."
The team, under Aughney' s leadership, has earned NAIA Scholar Team recognition three years in a row. This past fall, they are on pace do make it four with a GPA of 3.023. In the fall, of the 36-member squad, 25 earned GPAs of 3.0 and above, including Adrian Gonzalez Jr. (3.5), Jose Ramirez III (3.6), Matt Mihalov (3.7), Logan Garza (3.7), Miguel Galindo (3.8), Alex Garza (3.8), Matthew Klar (3.8) and John B. Ortega II (4.0).
How to watch the Saints
The Saints will play all of their home games at Missions Baseball Academy located at 5707 Highway 151 in San Antonio. "We'd love to have the fans out there. It's exciting for our players to hear people cheering from the stands. We'll see you at the ballpark!"
Select home games will be live-streamed through the OLLUSaintsNetwork on Stretch Internet. Fans will be able to stream home games on KSAT.com by downloading the app on their phone, accessing it online or watching it on their smart tv.