WESLACO — A new era of baseball has emerged on the East side of Weslaco.

The Weslaco East Wildcats (16-6, 12-2) have entered themselves into the school’s record books by capturing the first district championship and playoff berth in program history this season.

For a team that has had some down years in its more than 15-year history, the Wildcats put it behind them and have blazed their way to unprecedented success in 2021.

“It’s been fun, especially with this group of guys. I wouldn’t want to do it with anybody else,” junior left fielder Michael Brown Jr. said. “It’s fun, especially for coach (Mike) Brown. He’s been through some rough seasons, and for us to make history for him, that’s special for me.”

Four-year letterman and senior shortstop Jesse Lopez has been through it all during his time at Weslaco East. First it was lows, but the past two years have provided highs previously unknown to the Wildcats.

“At the start, it was kind of tough because teams before weren’t great with our team chemistry. We put our all into the game, but it just never went our way,” Lopez said. “The team that we have this year, we’ve been playing ball since we were kids. This year we were able to go the distance in district and hopefully we can go farther.”

Weslaco East’s Jesse Lopez (7) reacts near second base after hitting a double against Donna High in a District 32-5A game at Donna High School on Thursday, March 18, 2021, in Donna. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

Now, the Wildcats are in the midst of preparing for their first journey into the playoffs in program history.

Weslaco East’s first challenge of the postseason is a Class 5A bi-district matchup against the Sharyland High Rattlers (25-4, 11-3) with Game 1 at 7 p.m. Thursday at Weslaco East High School. Game 2 is at 7 p.m. Friday at Sharyland High School in Mission. Game 3, if necessary, will return to Weslaco East High School at 7 p.m. Saturday.

While eyes on the outside may be surprised at the Wildcats’ success this season, it’s no surprise to themselves.

When the UIL canceled all athletic activities last March, Weslaco East was in the process of putting together a winning season. After their year was cut short and a 9-3 record went to waste, it made the group of Wildcats more determined.

“After losing that season last year, these kids were hungry. They were dying to come out and play and it’s shown as the season went along,” Weslaco East head coach Mike Brown said. “We’ve had our ups and downs, but it’s been a fun season and the kids have responded well. This year they performed at a higher level and came ready to play.”

Weslaco East’s Mike Brown swings a pitch by Brownsville Porter in a District 32-5A game at Weslaco East High School on Friday, April 23, 2021, in Weslaco. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

The Wildcats finished the regular season 16-6 overall, the best mark in program history. They also won a share of the District 32-5A title by going 12-2, tied with co-champion Brownsville Veterans.

Weslaco East was presented with its district championship trophy Friday, a moment pitcher and middle infielder Alexander Solis said he will never forget.

“I had chills seeing that for the first time ever in the baseball locker room. That was awesome to see all that gold and touch it,” he said.

Weslaco East’s Antonio Balboa (24) pitches against Donna High in a District 32-5A game at Donna High School on Thursday, March 18, 2021, in Donna. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

The recipe for success has been a combination of dominant pitching from sophomore starters Solis and Antonio Balboa, mixed with dangerous bats throughout the order. With only three seniors on the roster in Lopez and another key piece Jarred Perez, it has allowed the youth on the roster to rise to the occasion repeatedly.

“It’s going to get harder from here on out. We’re going to have to play at a higher level and we’re going to have to play mistake free,” Brown said. “We’re going to have to play sound baseball, make routine plays and not give up any extra bases.”

bramos@themonitor.com