The Flying Chanclas de San Antonio didn’t react well initially to the loss of standouts Porter Brown and Conner Shepherd.
Two weeks ago, just six games into a 30-game schedule, they learned that they’d need to move on without Brown and Shepherd, both sidelined with finger injuries.
In their first game without the pair on July 8, they were humbled, losing 5-0 in Louisiana on a no-hitter pitched by the Acadiana Cane Cutters. In their second game, the next night, it wasn’t much better. They lost 3-1 at Acadiana.
Since then, though, the Chanclas have retooled the roster with a few additions. They’ve moved some players around in the batting order and in the field. And, slowly, they’ve started to get it rolling in the right direction.
The Chanclas, as a result, have won seven of their last nine leading into a key Texas Collegiate League series against the Brazos Valley Bombers.
First pitch on Tuesday is set for 7:05 p.m. at Wolff Stadium between the Chanclas, who lead the TCL’s South Division at 11-6, and the second-place Bombers, 9-6.
“That’s one thing about the game of baseball,” Chanclas manager John McLaren said. “You have an injury and someone else gets an opportunity. That’s what it’s been about. Some guys have stepped up. They’ve pulled together. We’ve developed some nice chemistry.
“We play well together,” he continued. “We play hard. We don’t give up. We’ve been in every game. It’s just a tribute to the type of people we have. It’s been a lot of fun. It’s been challenging, of course. But that’s what makes the game so interesting.”
Brown, the Chanclas’ leading hitter, was ruled out for the season immediately after an x-ray showed a fracture in the little finger on his right hand. Shepherd was thought to be lost for between seven and 10 days.
But McLaren said Monday that Shepherd, too, is also lost for the rest of the summer. Regardless, the Chanclas will forge ahead into the last few weeks of the regular season knowing that they have developed a solid ball club with the following characteristics:
Quality on the mound
The Chanclas lead the TCL with a 2.81 earned run average. Right-hander Lance Lusk from Sam Houston State (2-0, 2.34) leads the starting staff. The bullpen has been a strength with Arturo Guajardo from UTSA, Tyler Flores from Clark High School and Texas A&M-Kingsville and Connor Schmidt from Devine and St. Mary’s University.
Toughness at home
Wolff Stadium has been a nightmare for visiting teams. The Chanclas just seem to click when they’re playing under the lights at I-90 and Callaghan Road. They opened the season with five straight home wins before taking two of three last weekend against the Victoria Generals.
Shepherd, from TCU, was a good defensive player. But recently, Grant Smith from Incarnate Word has taken over at the hot corner. Starting out the season as a middle infielder, he moved over and has seamlessly evolved into a player that McLaren trusts to make the tough plays. He snared a ground ball, spun and threw out a runner at home plate in the top of the 10th on Saturday. Smith won the game in the 11th with an RBI single.
Brown was a player that McLaren was extremely high on. Making up for his loss has been an all-hands-on-deck effort. Newcomer Anthony Forte from the University of Richmond is a solid contributor in left field, where Brown played. Jordan Thompson has stepped in to Brown’s top spot in the batting order. Both outfielders are playing well. Also, center fielder Kyte McDonald, from Antonian and Mississippi State, has rebounded from a slow start to hit .346 in his last seven games.
Shortstop Jalen Battles, from Madison High School and Arkansas (by commitment), may have the most promising future in baseball on the squad. He has flashed quickness, agility and a good throwing arm. On offense, he started slowly but has come around lately, stroking hits in tight situations late in games recently. Battles looks like he is getting more and more comfortable at the plate, which is not good news for the rest of the TCL.