Baseball: Seniors tip scales for Clear Brook
In his first season as head coach, Clear Brook baseball's Gene Flores knows he's going to have a bunch of seniors in his everyday lineup.
"It's either going to be eight seniors and a freshman, or seven seniors, a junior and a freshman," said Flores, who takes over for Russell Ferrell, Clear Brook's coach for the past 14 seasons.
Flores spent the last four years as Ferrell's assistant, so he knows these Wolverines, and District 24-5A.
"Pearland and Brazoswood are the top teams, along with Alvin, and this district is just so tough," Flores said. "We're in the middle of the pack, and looking to move up, and just like every season, the race will come down to the last week."
Clear Brook went 5-0 and beat Spring 6-1 in the championship game at the Spring ISD Kenny Crafton Tournament last week to improve to 11-4 heading into district.
"We're pleased, and this is the best Clear Brook has done at the start of a season in a while," Flores said. "We used about a pitcher to a pitcher-and-a-half per game, so that means they've done a good job on the mound and gone deep into games, and there's no better way to go into district than on a winning streak."
Seniors Ryan Vruggink (University of Houston), Keaton Miller (Hill Junior College) and Andrew Phu, and junior Nolan Trabanino are Clear Brook's top pitchers, while also contributing elsewhere.
When not pitching, Miller starts at shortstop and leads off, Vruggink plays first or is the designated hitter in the three hole, former infielder Phu now roams the outfield, and Trabanino backs up at first base.
Senior second baseman Matt Heidt hits second in a lineup that can have different looks in the outfield thanks to capable seniors Dusteyn Suttle, Daniel Coats, Jeff Suchma, Josh Salway and Phu.
"We have five solid outfielders filling three spots, and they can all hit," Flores said. "Coats was a pitcher who is somewhat new to the outfield, and he's been on fire at the plate, and Suttle stepped it up during the tournament last week."
Senior catcher Kris Templin has missed time with an injury and is getting closer to 100 percent, while sharing time with junior Matt Fox, and a freshman, Justin Baker, is breaking in at the hot corner.
"Baker is our everyday third baseman, and his maturity level for a freshman has been tremendous," Flores said. "I was a little iffy at first, and especially at third base at the varsity level because it is a hard spot, but he's just a good player who needs to be in there."
The Wolverines continue this opening week of district at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 17, at Clear Creek, and at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 19, at Clear Springs.
Clear Brook hosts Brazoswood at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 22.
Flores played for his father, Gene Flores, Sr., in high school in Del Rio and at Corpus Christi Moody, the University of Houston through 2005, and in the Boston Red Sox's organization for nearly two years.
"Coaching runs deep in the family, so I have dreamed about being a head coach," Flores said. "There have been the usual first-year bumps and bruises, and the additional paperwork that you have to do, but it's a honor to be at Clear Brook and to be able to work with so many outstanding players and people."
Clear Brook advanced to the playoffs from third place behind co-champs Clear Creek and Brazoswood last year.
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