Brownsville Porter senior Christopher “Cristo” Sauceda came into this season with a new perspective and a desire to bring success to his teammates and his school.
Sauceda accomplished that, leading the Cowboys to their first playoff appearance since 2015. He was the workhorse on the mound, tossing more than 70 innings, striking out 89 and allowing only four earned runs en route to a 0.36 ERA, the fourth-best among Class 5A players in the state. Sauceda also hit .387 with two home runs as one of Porter’s top producers at the plate.
Sauceda’s stellar senior season earned him the District 32-5A MVP award and the All Valley Sports Awards baseball player of the year nod. He now adds All-Metro most valuable player to his resume.
“It means a lot because of all the hard work on and off the field, waking up early at 5 a.m. to go work out and then go to school and then go to practice. Everything paid off,” Sauceda said. “It was my senior year, so I was putting a lot of effort, me and my teammates. … I was feeling great (during the season) because I was doing everything right, throwing hard. I felt great about me.”
Sauceda also felt great about the way his team bonded and achieved big things in his final year. His favorite moment from the season was defeating state-ranked Sharyland Pioneer in a bi-district playoff series.
“I was so proud of my team because we started like two teams, separately, then we came together like a family,” Sauceda said. “I have five or six friends that we were together since we were freshmen, so I know the hard work that they put (in) and our senior year paid off with all the stuff we did.”
Porter coach Oscar Cortez said Sauceda was the catalyst for the team’s success. He praised the ace’s composure, leadership and drive to always be the best. After some concern whether Sauceda would play his senior season, Cortez said when he saw Sauceda on the first day of practice, there was a sigh of relief and he knew the season would be special.
“I’ve never seen a kid like him in my 15 years of coaching. His willingness to go out there and perform and trying to win the game by himself is special,” Cortez said. “He’s that type of leader, not only with his voice, but with the way he carries himself. He brings that thing we needed on the team for it to be a special year for us. … His work ethic is unbelievable, and he’s a very humble kid. Everything he got this year, he deserves it.”
With his Porter career behind him, Sauceda has started preparing to play for Texas A&M International University. He was known among the Cowboys faithful as “the guy who always cares about baseball,” and he’s proud his love for the game brought good things to Porter.
“I’m going to continue doing what I love to do, which is baseball. (Thank you to) my family, my brother and mom and my dad, the trainers and the coaches here, because since I was a freshman they were there for me,” Sauceda said.
Offensive Player of the Year
Germain Castillo, Los Fresnos
Castillo, a senior center fielder, was consistently dependable at the plate for the Falcons.
Castillo hit in the three-hole and drove in 31 RBIs behind 37 hits, ranking among the top 200 Class 6A players in the state in both categories. He came through with clutch hits when the Falcons needed one, including 11 that went for extra bases, and he used his speed on the base paths to swipe 16 steals.
“I knew I had to go out there and perform. I didn’t know I was going to win this award, but I knew the kinds of stats I had and it’s just amazing getting this award,” Castillo said. “All the work we put in the whole season showed what player I really was.”
A lot of batting practice and a simple approach helped Castillo handle the responsibility of hitting in the heart of the lineup. One of his favorite hits came in a district contest against Weslaco High, when he sent a triple to the opposite field to give his team the lead. He hit into a fielder’s choice to drive in the game-winning run in the regional quarterfinal round against Edinburg Vela.
“I usually like taking the first pitch because I want to see what pitch the guy’s going to throw me. From there, all I’m thinking is fastball. If anything else comes, I’m just sitting on it and putting my hands through the ball. There’s really not much to it,” Castillo said. “I loved (the responsibility). I knew, with us putting runners in scoring position, I was going to go up there and do my best to score some runs.”
Castillo is proud of what he helped his team accomplish this season, reaching the Region IV final. He said it meant a lot to close out his career with a strong year, and he’s grateful for all who played a part in his journey.
“Thank you to the coaches for making me the player I am today, especially (coach Rene Morales) and (assistant coach Aucesio Garza), my outfield coach. And all my teammates, especially Victor Loa, my cousin, and all my family for going out and supporting me.”
Co-Defensive Player of the Year
Rafael Capistran, Brownsville Veterans Memorial
Brownsville Veterans Memorial senior pitcher/center fielder Rafael Capistran ended his Chargers career with his best season.
Capistran picked up five wins on the mound and struck out 83 while notching a 1.49 ERA, which ranks among the top 50 in Class 5A. When he wasn’t pitching, Capistran anchored the outfield defense, helping the Chargers clinch another District 32-5A championship.
“I’m very honored and I’m very happy for it. I know a lot of people want to get these types of awards and not a lot of people can, and I’m just very honored that I had the chance to acquire this one,” Capistran said. “I feel like I helped out the team a lot, especially with my pitching. I feel like this was my best year on the mound.”
Capistran focused on locating pitches to limit the amount of balls he threw during games. Two of his best pitching performances came in a win over Weslaco East for the district title and in a playoff loss to state-ranked and loaded Corpus Christi Veterans Memorial.
Along with improved pitching, Capistran was pleased with his play in the outfield that showcased his speed and quick reactions.
“I felt like I was more in the zone, and this year I increased my speed a lot, up in the high 80s and might have touched 90s a few times,” Capistran said. “To play in the outfield you have to be quick, react fast and you have to be able to read the ball very well. I feel like I have all that. I read the ball really well, and I really trust my game.”
Next up for Capistran is a career at UTRGV. He hopes his time at BVM inspired other Chargers, including his younger brother, and taught them the same lessons that made him a great player.
“I think the younger guys and my brother are going to try to follow my footsteps and try to be the best they can,” Capistran said. “You have to appreciate every game that you play, every practice you go to. You never know when might be your last day of stepping foot on the field. Make the best of it every single day. Don’t take it for granted.”
Co-Defensive Player of the Year
Victor Loa, Los Fresnos
The 2021 season didn’t start how the senior wanted.
Loa was sidelined with an elbow injury and wasn’t sure he’d get to pitch in his final season. Loa made a triumphant return to the mound to lead Los Fresnos to the Region IV final.
The southpaw threw 24 2/3 innings and picked up four playoff wins to reach the fifth round. He notched a 0.85 ERA and struck out 34.
“It’s a true blessing, and I always give my thanks to the Lord for blessing me with the opportunity to play the game that I love,” Loa said. “I’m glad my family got to see me play my last year, even though it wasn’t what we expected. But the way I capped it off was what many would dream about, pushing your team past history and being one step short of the state tournament.”
Loa said being injured molded him into a tougher person. It wasn’t easy to watch from the dugout, or to battle through soreness and some pain round after round. He was proud of the way he overcame adversity to take Los Fresnos to new heights.
“I didn’t know what to expect, but to come back at the right time for my team and to do what I did, it says a lot about me and the type of team we were to get to where we wanted to, and I’m just grateful,” Loa said. “It showed how much grit I play with. I never back down from anything.”
Loa called the playoff run “one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.” He avenged a Game 3 regional quarterfinal loss from his freshman season with a dominant one-hit, 14-strikeout victory over Edinburg Vela. He called the 11-2 rout of state-ranked Round Rock “probably the best game” the Falcons played in his whole career.
The Texas State-bound ace drew his motivation from his family, including the relatives he lost during high school. He’s grateful for his time with the Falcons and knows he left his mark.
“Getting myself through (losing family members), seeing my family grow tougher through it, made me push a little extra to show the tradition we have in the Loa/Castillo family,” Loa said. “I did everything right, I believed in God and he believed in me, and I feel like this legacy is going to last a while at Los Fresnos.”
Newcomer of the Year
Carlos Garza, Brownsville Veterans Memorial
Being a freshman on a very talented team didn’t stop Brownsville Veterans Memorial freshman Carlos Garza from being able to shine.
He jumped straight into a vital position at shortstop and was productive at the plate. Garza hit .392, drove in 17 RBIs and notched a .914 fielding percentage to help the Chargers win the District 32-5A championship in his debut season.
“I am proud of myself because all my preparation gave results,” Garza said. “(Wanting to play well) was a type of weight I had the whole season, because I felt like I was a key for the team. No matter what year you are, you can always be a star of the team.”
Garza said his fielding and ability to make contact with the ball are some of the skills that helped him succeed as a freshman. He turned eight double plays and improved as a defender throughout the season. A highlight moment from his rookie campaign was when Garza hit a two-run double to lift Brownsville Veterans to a walkoff win over Brownsville Lopez.
The all-district first-team shortstop will aim to build off his strong debut season with the help of his support system.
“It motivates me that I can play a good season with the best school in the United States,” Garza said. “(Thank you) to my parents, to my whole family, to my girlfriend and to all the people who supported me and were with me.”
Coach of the Year
Rene Morales, Los Fresnos
Morales has been leading the charge at Los Fresnos for more than 20 years. But this season was unlike any other he had before.
Morales and his Falcons earned the attention of the state as they powered through the daunting Region IV playoff bracket to reach the regional final, where they fell one run shy of reaching the state tournament. For his work leading Los Fresnos to new heights, Morales has been tabbed the All-Metro coach of the year.
“It feels great. Couldn’t do it without the kids, we had a great group of kids this year. They did everything we asked them to do. It was just one of those special teams that bonded together, and the coaches pushed those kids to the limit and they responded,” Morales said.
The Falcons had a plethora of injuries throughout the regular season that forced Morales to shuffle the lineup offensively and defensively. They overcame those struggles, and Morales felt it made them stronger as the season went on.
“It was hard every week. Every week it was something different, every game was something different,” Morales said. “All the adversity we went through, kids playing different positions, they responded really well and that’s what made it so special, was those kids buying into what we were asking them to do and playing different positions while guys were hurt.”
Morales motivated the Falcons with the motto, “One more Monday.” And when that Monday came around, he was glad to have luck on his side to win flip after flip for one-game playoffs.
But it wasn’t all luck that got Los Fresnos five rounds deep. Morales and his staff got the best out of their players every game, and the Falcons showed everyone what they’re all about.
“It puts us on the map, and the kids are getting noticed on the field,” Morales said. “That’s what we want these kids to learn, just go out there and play hard, and leave it all on the field and we’ll go from there. The kids played out of their shoes, and the teams that we beat, we outplayed everybody. I’m very proud of this team. This is a very special group, and I don’t know if I’ll have another like it.”