Balance, athleticism: Titans of multiple sports fill out well-rounded baseball team

Published 2:18 pm Saturday, February 1, 2020

A few of the Memorial Titans’ outfielders won’t be joining the team just yet as the basketball season continues, but coach Jessie Riojas doesn’t think that’s a bad thing. He says it means his team has a number of great athletes, and that’s going to give them a competitive edge.

“I feel like this is one of the more athletic teams we’ve had,” Riojas said. “We have several players that play multiple sports. We have a few that play football and a few that are in basketball right now, so I feel like this is one of the most athletic teams that we’ve had.”

Among those multi-sport athletes is sophomore Amaree Abram and seniors Colton Mitchel and JaKaleb Buckley, all from basketball. Brandon Chaney, the junior starting running back for the Titans football team, has also been a starter for varsity baseball since his freshman year. Junior Tony Brooks, another from the football team, will provide more athleticism as another pitcher and outfielder.

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“Colton and JaKaleb, they saw some varsity time last year,” Riojas said. “Amaree was kind of a young guy last year but he was a varsity guy as well. Colton and JaKaleb are primarily outfielders. JaKaleb played a little second base for us, and Amaree, with his height, played first base in the past when he was growing up. He played outfield for us in the past, and he’s left handed, so Amaree might end up being our first baseman.

“I don’t think it will hurt us much, not having those guys in the beginning, but I feel like once they get with us, they’ll be a big help for sure, and hopefully we’ll have those guys before district starts.”

Two more weapons in the Titans’ pocket will be sophomore pitcher Emmanuel Garcia and senior pitcher Josue Rodriguez.

“Rodriguez is one of our top pitchers and he’ll also bounce around in the infield as short stop or third base,” Riojas said. “Garcia got a lot of playing time last year as a freshman, and he’s really grown up this offseason and is really filling out, so we’re looking for some big things from him.”

This year’s team is also more balanced in its age range. Two sophomores and three juniors join with eight seniors to provide future teams with some seasoned players, though in the case of sophomores Abram and Garcia, they are coming seasoned already.

“We have some upperclassmen that have some experience and we have some underclassmen that have some experience,” Riojas said. “In the past where we’ve had 12-13 seniors I feel like the following year it’s like a rebuilding year because you have a lot of guys who probably didn’t have as much experience. That happened to us back in 2016/17. The 2018 and 2019 seasons were pretty good seasons and this year we’ve kind of got a handful of seniors that graduated last year but we also have a lot of younger guys that were varsity as well.”

The District will be competitive again. Nederland will continue to be scrappy under coach Bryan Spell and will be tough to play, Riojas said. Port Neches-Groves, who finished second in the district last season, is returning pitchers Khristian Curtis and Carson Roccaforte, both signed to Division I schools. Reigning district champion Barbers Hill had a young team the previous year but have a lot of returners this year, Riojas said. The Titans themselves ended their season 7-14 and 2-10 in district last year, kept out of the playoffs by placing fifth.

“I see they and PNG will be battling out for the top spot for sure,” he said. “Our district’s probably one of the toughest districts in the state, believe it or not.”

The season officially began Friday, and the Titans’ first scrimmage over at Hamshire Fannett will be at 6 p.m. Feb. 10.