Cardinals to compete for another district baseball title
Last updated 2/26/2023 at 1:55pm
The Bridge City Cardinals had a good year in baseball for 2022. It included a playoff appearance last season and sets the stage for a run at another district title this year.
Head baseball coach Chad Landry evaluated the Cardinals performance last season. "I thought last year was a good year for us. We had some guys that got some experience and younger guys that really stepped up for us. We had the district most valuable player Ethan Oceguera who really stepped up and carried us through district into the playoffs. Our playoff run was not what we're used to, but sometimes it's not about what you have it's about who you're playing and Huffman got us in that first round. Overall, I was happy with the way that we developed and our young guys really got some experience they needed," Landry recalled.
That experience earned last season is paying off already this year with the returning Cardinals. The fundamental leader for Bridge City is behind the plate in Justin Abate. He's done a really good job growing into the position of catcher that he inherited as a sophomore.
Abate has worked hard with Coach Hunter Uzzle to improve his skills as a catcher. Landry added, "Justin's a leader, stuff that we can't coach that he kind of has inherently in him. The other Cardinals gravitate to him because he works so hard."
A leader on the mound for Bridge City will be Braylen Collins who has really stepped up for the Cardinals with his strongest outing to date against Hardin-Jefferson before the recent tournament at Bridge City. "He's matured physically at 6-3, 210, and is just a gifted athlete. I think he's realized what he needs to do on the mound to get outs which is huge for us," Landry pointed out.
Centerfielder John Van Huis is a baseball rat Landry described him affectionately. Landry elaborated, "Van Huis is a gamer, and I love watching him play. It's really been fun to watch him grow and mature. John's just a really good kid and a great ball player."
JS Bearden is a returner for the Cardinals who plays mostly in the outfield. Bearden can play second base as well, but will definitely see some time on the mound this season.
There is a huge group of 21 freshmen in the Bridge City baseball program. Two of those freshmen Hunter Ford and Austin Frederick are on the varsity getting their feet wet with the upper classmen and learning the pace of the game at that upper level.
Coach Shea Landry has been working with Ford and Frederick giving them repetitions which has earned the two starting positions for the Cardinals as middle infielders. "Both are very talented, young, hungry players, and we're expecting big things. We would not have put that pressure on them if we didn't think they could do it and they have done a great job. It's been fun, it's been good to watch them grow," Landry responded.
Last year the Bridge City offense was disappointing and frustrating for Coach Landry. The Cardinals' team batting average was only about .215 which Landry said was not good and resulted in a lot of one-run games.
There are some new Cardinals in the mix with some experienced players that should help boost the Bridge City bats for this season. Dax Latiolais is a sophomore who play first base and designated hitter. Landry likes Dax at the plate and how aggressive he is with the bat.
Landry has been impressed with JS Bearden and the way he has cleaned somethings up in his swing. Bearden is also being aggressive in a positive way when hitting the baseball and has really improved which Landry expects to continue as the season progresses.
The coach shared the strategy for Bridge City hitting. "We're just trying to find barrels on balls with our guys, and the more barrels we can get in the game the better, and we're just going to put the guys in positions that we feel can get us the most barrels per game," Landry analyzed.
The Cardinals' ace pitcher last year was Ethan Oceguera, but he has graduated so Bridge City must establish a new number one on the mound and several backups for this season. In the scrimmages and the season opener against Hardin-Jefferson Coach Landry has thrown twelve different pitchers.
Braylen Collins is obviously the number one right now having signed to play for the University of Houston next year. Collins' great work in that season opener solidified his position as the number one starter for the Cardinals.
Landry observed that after Collins the Cardinals have some good arms that mix up their pitches well. Landon Reeves was used primarily out of the bull pen last season and has done a great job picking up where he left off the previous year. Aidyn Mulhollan will likely be a starter for Bridge City in some capacity.
"Mr. Reliable" as he was labelled by Coach Landry, JS Bearden will probably throw in excess of thirty innings this year. Parker Norwood has moved up from the junior varsity last year and has come on in recent weeks to become a pitcher that just gets outs. Landry said he likes the way Norwood competes.
Freshman Austin Frederick will also get some innings as a pitcher. Lefty RJ Esquivel saw time in several district games last season and will have the opportunity to pitch again this year for Bridge City.
Landry evaluated the Cardinals pitching as the season began. "We've got some guys that we trust, and we don't have a problem with using any of them at any moment," Landry admitted.
The number "26" on the right field fence at Chuck Young Field represents the district baseball championships won by the Bridge City Cardinals. As a result the expectations every year in Bridge City are always for another title to be won by the Cardinals.
A bit of a change for the district action this season is the scheduling of opponents. Instead of playing each district opponent once and then repeating that same schedule but at the other team's field, Bridge City will play the same school in back to back games only switching the location. The belief is this will not allow team's with just one good pitcher to save their ace for games against the other top team in the district.
Landry stated the goal is always a district title and then go as far and as long as the Cardinals can in the playoffs "I feel like we're going to compete really well. There's a lot of young guys in our lineup so we don't really know how they will do. We've got three and a half more weeks to figure it out. I feel like we match up very well and with the new district rotation the schedule is a little different. You really have to have a real bull pen to make that work and you really have to have a number two pitcher if you want to have a chance at a district title, and that's our goal, a district title. We're trying to get number twenty-seven in the school's history," Landry concluded.
Bridge City hosted the Team Granger Cardinal Invitational the last weekend of February. The Cardinals were 2-2 in the four games they played.
Aidyn Mulhollan pitched four shutout innings for Bridge City to earn the victory in a 9-0 win over Buna on Thursday. Justin Abate had two of the hits in the game for Bridge City.
Friday morning the Cardinals rallied from a three-run deficit to beat Hamshire-Fannett 10-5 with John Van Huis scoring runs in each of the three innings Bridge City batted. JS Bearden had a two-run double that put the Cardinals in the lead to stay.
The game was not so good for Bridge City on Friday night as their Cow Bayou rival Orangefield overwhelmed the Cardinals 11-0. Saturday the Cardinals lost a close one 4-2 to Port Neches-Groves. Landon Reeves pitched four innings with six strikeouts but took the loss on the mound for Bridge City.