LA JOYA — When the 2020 high school baseball season shut down less than a month after it began, the La Joya High Coyotes were left feeling like there was unfinished business.
The Coyotes had district championship aspirations, but no opportunity to reach the potential they felt they had within the dugout.
When the first day of practice of the 2021 season began in January, their goal remained unchanged: bring a district title to La Joya.
“From Day 1 we put in the work, adjusted, and knew we could be the district champion and bring back that tradition to La Joya. They believed and they made it happen,” said La Joya baseball head coach Mario Flores, The Monitor’s 2021 All-Area Baseball Coach of the Year.
Under Flores’ direction, La Joya won the District 31-6A championship with a 16-0 record. The Coyotes then won back-to-back playoff series over Weslaco High and San Antonio Stevens to advance to Round 3 of the postseason.
The last time the Coyotes’ baseball program reached Round 3 was in 2010.
“I’ve never had a year like this. I’m very proud of the guys,” said Flores, La Joya’s third-year head coach. “They put in a lot of work and it showed throughout the season. I’m grateful for them, the seniors that I have and the coaching staff. They did a great job with the kids and I’m proud of them.”
The Coyotes hit .371 as a team across 23 games while also posting a 2.18 ERA.
“He (Flores) gave us confidence. He made us feel like we’re the best team in the Valley and always able to get the job done; we just had to work hard at it,” La Joya’s No.1 pitcher JC Gutierrez said.
Flores said he takes pride in being able to help the program he once suited up for as a high school baseball player win as its head coach.
“It’s a dream come true coming back to your high school and being a coach and having successful years. It’s a feeling words can’t describe,” he said.
While the Coyotes were certainly excited to add a district championship, bi-district, and area round playoff trophy to their case this past season, Flores and next year’s group feels they aren’t done yet.
“I think the guys that we had this past year set a good foundation. We have some shoes to fill, but I think as far as chemistry, our junior group is one of the best we’ve had,” he said. “Our pitching is coming back, so I think we’ll have a good year.”