It was a heavyweight type of match up on the baseball diamond when the Bellaire Cardinals faced the Memorial Mustangs in the Class 5A Region III Quarterfinals. The defending regional champion Cardinals were ranked No. 1 in the state, just ahead of Memorial at No. 2.
“It was a bigger game than we wanted in the regional quarterfinals, that’s for sure,” said Bellaire head coach Rocky Manuel. “Memorial is extremely well coached, and those guys can really play. We persevered against a great team.”
As was the case three times in Bellaire’s run to the regional championship last season, the so-called “Cardiac Cardinals” had to rally from one game down to win the series. After Memorial won game one 7-6, the Cardinals came back with 6-2 and 11-6 victories in games two and three of the series.
“We’ve got a lot of experience, so we don’t panic,” said Manuel. “Plus, we also have a great pitching staff with three future college Division 1 players in Tyler Duffey, Kyle Chaskin and Toller Boardman.” Chaskin fired a three-hitter in the game-two win, while Duffey went the distance for the win in game three.
“I like being in that situation,” said Duffey. “I feed off the pressure. I think it makes me play even better.” As for Chaskin’s outing in game two, the junior hurler also rose to the occasion with the Cardinals on the brink of elimination.
“I put my whole effort into it, knowing that the season relied on this game,” said Chaskin. “I just knew I had to come through for the team.”
From the big bats of baseball to the big sticks of lacrosse, it was a magnificent season for the Strake Jesuit Crusaders. Strake Jesuit defeated St. John’s 17-12 to win the Division 1 South Regional Championship of the Texas High School Lacrosse League.
“It was great,” said midfielder Rex Potts. “It’s the first time we’ve made it to State in Division 1.”
“We’re really excited about this,” added midfielder Andrew Martin. “It’s a great opportunity to show that Houston’s got some of the best lacrosse in the state of Texas.’’
As for the regional final over St. John’s, Strake Jesuit was led by the six goals and five assists from Mark Allison and an additional three goals from Connor Wilson. “It was huge to get that win,” said Allison.
“One big thing is that the guys are dedicated,” said head coach Mike Block. “From doing their running and lifting back in the fall to working on their stick work, they stayed with it.”
“People work hard in this sport,” added Crusaders midfielder Rex Potts. “There’s a lot of running, hitting and hand-eye coordination. It’s really a sport of pure athleticism, and I’m really proud of what this team accomplished.”
At St. Thomas High School, the Eagles boasted one of the best rugby teams in the entire nation this season. After winning the Texas High School Rugby State Championship, the Eagles then went on to claim the Western USA Regional title.
“It was a dream season,” said Eagles head coach Jim Wolfinger. “Our 17-2 record was the most wins ever for the school. Ultimately, we finished seventh in the nation, which is pretty phenomenal.”
In the championship game of the Western Regional, St. Thomas defeated Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, in some of the worst conditions imaginable for any sporting event.
“It was horrific,” said Wolfinger. “The field was like a mud pit. It had been raining for days, and there was absolutely no drainage. It was also cold, and there was standing water everywhere. I’ve never seen anything like it. But our guys played like men. They adapted to the conditions as best they could. To play a sport that’s centered around ball handling on that type of field is extremely difficult.”
For the season, the Eagles were led by the tremendous play of Conor Mills, who was also the quarterback of the Eagles football team. “Conor was the leader on the field,” said Wolfinger. “He scored 328 points by himself. He picked apart defenses and was also our leading tackler.”
Wolfinger had high praise for several other players, including Paul Rogers and Nathan Wisnoski. “Paul is a powerful kid with great ball skills. He played linebacker in football and has been one of our top players for three years. Nathan is a big, tall kid who dominated the line all year. He’s a great tackler and a hard worker who made a huge difference for us.”
Editor’s Note: Todd Freed is the host and executive producer of High School Sports Live, which can be seen each Saturday, Sunday and Monday at 6 p.m. on Houston’s 55, KTBU-TV. To submit information for possible inclusion in SportzBuzz, please e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) todd (at) thebuzzmagazines (dot) com.