Chanclas’ Flores makes the most of a tough year in baseball

Flying Chanclas first baseman Ryan Flores from University of the Incarnate Word hitting his first double of the game against the Cane Cutters on Saturday, July 4, 2020, at Wolff Stadium. - photo by Joe Alexander

Ryan Flores, who had been serving food at a barbecue restaurant in Corpus Christi earlier this spring, has batted .303 with a team-high 16 RBI for the Flying Chanclas this summer. – Photo by Joe Alexander

When the coronavirus pandemic shut down college baseball in March, Ryan Flores treated the abrupt change in his lifestyle sort of like a fastball tailing away on the outside corner — by slapping it into the opposite field for a base hit.

In other words, he made the best of a tough situation.

A little more than four months later, as Flores continues to bang out the hits to all fields, the Flying Chanclas de San Antonio are reaping the rewards, qualifying as a first-year franchise for the playoffs in the Texas Collegiate League.

On the eve of a series against the Brazos Valley Bombers, Flores said the Chanclas are thrilled just to have played in a season, let alone get the opportunity to compete in a postseason.

“I think we’re all just happy to be out playing again, because the past fourth months has been the longest we’ve all been without baseball in, like, five or six years,” he said. “So we’re just happy to be out there to try and win games.”

Flores, from Corpus Christi Carroll and the University of the Incarnate Word, has been a difference-maker.

His .303 batting average and team-leading 16 RBI in 23 games are two major reasons that the Chanclas have a chance in a best-of-3 South divisional series that starts Tuesday night at Wolff Stadium.

Naturally, he’d like to see the team win the championship to cap off what has been a crazy year for everyone on the roster.

“It would mean a lot,” Flores said. “We’re very excited to get out there and get a ring and hopefully bring back a championship to a team that was just (created) this year. Just bring it back to San Antonio, because, I know the fans enjoy coming out to the games.

“That would make me really happy if we could bring back a championship for the fans.”

In the spring, Flores’ hopes of helping UIW win a Southland Conference championship during his junior year were dashed. The season was called off after 16 games. His whole life was upended, really, because the campus was closed.

In response, Flores knew he’d need to make a plan on how to finish out his semester. How to further his career. How to make the best of it.

Flores, a practical man, decided that he would return to Corpus Christi, live at home and take his UIW classes online.

He decided he’d also work some shifts at the Salty Oak, a barbecue restaurant, to make a little extra money.

The best entree on the menu? If you ask Flores, it’s “The Big Salty.”

“It’s a two-pound sandwich with brisket, pulled pork, sausage, and cole slaw on top — just a big ‘ol sandwich,” he said. “That’s my favorite.”

So, while Flores was toiling with his UIW classes virtually and working to carry out food to curb-side customers at the Salty Oak, he was also trying to carve out enough time for baseball practice.

Working on his game was a chore, because with the pandemic, most fields were closed. He finally found one facility, known as the “Cage Nation USA,” where he’d go with friends to tinker with his craft.

Given his erratic workout schedule during the spring, it’s surprising in a way that he became such an offensive force with the Chanclas this summer. How did he do it?

“I’m not really sure,” Flores said. “I guess I’ve always been a good hitter, wherever I’m at. The way (Chanclas players) expected it to be, all the hitters were going to be behind, because all the pitchers were going to be able to throw during quarantine, while we hadn’t seen any live pitching or anything.

“It took a few games to get into it. But after awhile, I started getting my timing down and started getting back into rhythm. Started doing well.”

In watching Flores, it’s easy to see that he has worked hard at his game for some time. A left-handed hitter, his bat whips around swiftly and smoothly on a slightly upward arc.

He can jerk the ball to right field, but he also knows how to shoot line drives down the third-base line, a skill that will come in handy in his future endeavors.

Flores said he really felt like he started to make rapid improvements as a hitter when he arrived at UIW in 2017.

“My freshman year of college, is when I started getting better, (using) my legs and staying through the ball, rather than pulling off of everything,” he said. “It’s really been the last few years that I started to know myself as a hitter.”

His ability to hit to the opposite field could help immensely on the next level. Does he want to play pro ball? You bet, he does.

“I really think about it every day, honestly,” Flores said. “It’s the main goal for me. I’ve been dreaming about that since I was three or four years old.

“It’s just crazy that I’ve had those same dreams the past 15 or 16 years of wanting to play professional baseball, and how close I’m getting to it … I’m really hoping to get picked up by somebody.”

In the meantime, the Chanclas’ RBI leader would love to make something happen this week, for the fans and for his teammates, particularly against Brazos Valley.

The Bombers handcuffed Chanclas hitters in winning three straight games in Bryan a little more than a week ago.

“We’re just trying to redeem ourselves after that last not-so-lucky trip,” Flores said. “So we’re getting really prepared. We had practice (Monday). We’re really excited to get out there and play them again.”

Records

Brazos Valley (19-11)
San Antonio (16-12)

Playoff schedule

Here is the TCL playoff schedule as spelled out in a Monday morning Twitter post from the league office:

South Division

Brazos Valley Bombers at the Flying Chanclas, 7:05 p.m. Tuesday, at Wolff Stadium, San Antonio.

Flying Chanclas at Bombers, 7:05 p.m. Wednesday, at Travis Field, Bryan.

(If necessary) Flying Chanclas at Bombers, 7:05 p.m., Thursday, at Travis Field, Bryan.

North Division

Amarillo Sod Squad at Tulsa Drillers, 7:05 p.m., Tuesday.

Tulsa at Amarillo, 7:05 p.m., Wednesday.

(If necessary) Tulsa at Amarillo, 7:05 p.m. Thursday.

Championship game

Teams TBA, at either Amarillo, or the South Division winner’s home ball park, 7:05 p.m., Saturday

Flying Chanclas to host Bombers on Tuesday in TCL playoffs

The Flying Chanclas de San Antonio will host the Brazos Valley Bombers Tuesday night at Wolff Stadium in Game 1 of the Texas Collegiate League playoffs.

The best-of-3 series between the South Division rivals will shift to Bryan for Game 2 on Wednesday night. Game 3 would be held Thursday, also in Bryan, if necessary.

If the Chanclas can get past the Bombers, they would play the winner of a North Division series between Tulsa and the Amarillo Sod Squad.

A winner-take-all, TCL title game would be played Saturday night.

According to the TCL, if Amarillo wins the North, Amarillo would host the championship game. If Tulsa wins, the winner of the San Antonio – Brazos Valley series would host.

The Bombers won four of six meetings against the Chanclas this season.

Brazos Valley (18-12) on Sunday completed a three-game sweep of the Victoria Generals in the regular-season finale for each team. The Bombers won 11-1 in Bryan.

The Chanclas (16-12) didn’t play any of their three regularly-scheduled games against the Round Rock Hairy Men this weekend.

The first game of the series was rained out in Round Rock on Friday night. On Saturday, the Hairy Men announced the end of their season after members of their team tested positive for Covid-19.

As a result, the Chanclas got credit for two victories in the official standings and Round Rock got two losses.

In an exhibition game Saturday night at Wolff Stadium, the Chanclas, playing with several newcomers to the roster, defeated Texas USA of the CENTEX League, 10-1.

Schedule

Here is the TCL playoff schedule as spelled out in a Monday morning Twitter post from the league office:

South Division

Brazos Valley Bombers at the Flying Chanclas, 7:05 p.m. Tuesday, at Wolff Stadium, San Antonio.

Flying Chanclas at Bombers, 7:05 p.m. Wednesday, at Travis Field, Bryan.

(If necessary) Flying Chanclas at Bombers, 7:05 p.m., Thursday, at Travis Field, Bryan.

North Division

Amarillo Sod Squad at Tulsa Drillers, 7:05 p.m., Tuesday.

Tulsa at Amarillo, 7:05 p.m., Wednesday.

(If necessary) Tulsa at Amarillo, 7:05 p.m. Thursday.

Championship game

Teams TBA, at either Amarillo, or the South Division winner’s home ball park, 7:05 p.m., Saturday

Bombers cruise to third straight victory over slumping Chanclas

The Flying Chanclas’ bats fell silent once again Sunday night. As a result, the Brazos Valley Bombers rolled to a 7-2 victory at Travis Field in Bryan to hand the slumping Chanclas their third straight loss.

With the win, the Bombers (15-9) finished 4-2 against the Chanclas this week, including a 3-0 sweep at Travis Field, and increased their lead to 1 and 1/2 games in the South Division of the Texas Collegiate League.

The second-place Chanclas (13-10) managed only six hits in falling to a third-straight loss for the first time this season.

Brazos Valley’s Austin Bost drilled a two-run double to spark a three-run third inning. Sean Arnold added a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0 against San Antonio reliever Zach DeLeon. The Bombers tallied four more runs in the sixth off Johnny Panatex to make it 7-0.

The Chanclas snapped a streak of 24 straight scoreless innings in the series when they scored twice in the eighth. Lee Thomas drilled an RBI single to center and Bryan Aguilar was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

But the threat ended there when Jacob Montejano’s ground ball forced a runner at second for the last out.

Playoff chase

In the TCL, the top two teams in both the North and South divisions advance to the playoffs. Right now, the Bombers and even the Chanclas, in spite of their swoon, are both in position to make the postseason.

But behind Brazos Valley and San Antonio in the South standings, both Round Rock (13-11) and Acadiana (10-12) remain in contention to claim at least the No. 2 spot. Acadiana, playing at home in Youngsville, La., beat Round Rock 8-5 on Sunday night.

Runs-hits-errors

San Antonio — 2 6 1
Brazos Valley — 7 6 2
Please click on the link for Sunday night’s box score.

Records

San Antonio 13-10
Brazos Valley 15-9

Coming up

The Chanclas have Monday off. They play six games this week to complete the regular season. The first three are at home, starting Tuesday, against the Amarillo Sod Squad.

Notable

In sweeping the visiting team, Bombers pitching held the Flying Chanclas scoreless for 24 straight innings over most of three games.

The Chanclas scored three runs in the first inning of Friday night’s opener in Bryan.

But after that, they were shut out in the final eight innings of Game 1, in all nine innings of Game 2, and in the first seven innings of Game 3.

Brazos Valley wins 4-0 to take over first place in the TCL South

Tristan Stivors, Will Johnston and Zach Poe combined on a two-hitter Saturday night as the Brazos Valley Bombers beat the Flying Chanclas de San Antonio, 4-0, in Bryan.

With the victory, the Bombers (14-9) moved into first place in the South Division of the Texas Collegiate League. The Chanclas (13-9) fell into second after losing two straight in Bryan at Travis Field.

Stivors, a right-hander from Medina Valley High School and Texas State, set the tone with four innings of one-hit, scoreless pitching. He struck out seven.

In the fifth inning, the Bombers replaced Stivors with Johnston, a 6-foot-3, left-hander from Texas A&M. With a herky-jerky motion and a heavy fastball, he also pitched four scoreless, allowing no hits. He walked two and fanned five.

When Johnston walked two in the eighth, it broke a string of 20 straight Chanclas batters retired.

Poe issued a one-out walk to Anthony Forte and allowed an infield single to Jordan Thompson, giving the Chanclas hope for a comeback in their last at bat. But Ryan Flores popped out to center field for the second out.

On the last play, Forte was caught straying too far off second base. He was picked off to end it, giving Bombers pitching 17 straight scoreless innings over the last two games.

San Antonio and Brazos Valley will play once more in the regular season, on Sunday night in Bryan. Both have seven games left in the regular season.

In the TCL, the top two teams in both the North and South divisions reach the playoffs.

Behind Brazos Valley and San Antonio, Round Rock (13-10) and Acadiana (9-12) both remain in the postseason chase with a chance to finish second.

Acadiana beat Round Rock 3-0 on Friday night. But Round Rock rebounded to win 10-0 in the second game Saturday.

The series, being played in Acadiana’s home of Youngsville, La., will be completed on Sunday night.

Runs-hits-errors

San Antonio — 0 2 0
Brazos Valley — 4 11 0
Please click on the link for Saturday’s box score.

Records

San Antonio 13-9
Brazos Valley 14-9

Coming up

San Antonio at Brazos Valley, 7:05 p.m., Sunday, in Bryan.

Down the stretch

After a day off on Monday, the Chanclas return home Tuesday for the first of three games at Wolff Stadium against the Amarillo Sod Squad. They finish the regular season with three against Round Rock.

On Friday July 31, the Chanclas will play at Round Rock’s Dell Diamond. On Saturday, Aug. 1, it’s Round Rock at San Antonio. On Sunday Aug. 2, the teams will return to Round Rock for the regular-season finale.

Notable

The Chanclas have been kept off the scoreboard three times this season, all on the road. In their two previous shutout losses, they fell 1-0 on a two-hitter at Amarillo on July 1. They lost 5-0 on a no-hitter at Acadiana on July 8.

Chanclas starter Lance Lusk wasn’t sharp, but he did complete five innings. He gave up two runs, only one of them earned, on eight hits. He walked two and struck out none.

Bombers right fielder Sean Arnold had a big night. On defense, he had an assist in throwing out a runner at third base to end the first inning. On offense, he went 2 for 3, scored a run and knocked one in. In the fourth inning, he slapped a single that scored Austin Bost.

Manny Garcia continued to torment the Chanclas with two hits and two RBI. In the opener of the series Tuesday in San Antonio, he homered and doubled and drove in five runs. He’s also made three diving catches in the outfield.

With Saturday’s performance, Brazos Valley has now won three of the five games in the head-to-head series against San Antonio.

RBI machine: Chanclas’ Flores drives in three more in 4-3 victory

Ryan Flores doubled, had a sacrific flying and drove in three of the Flying Chanclas' four runs against the Brazos Valley Bombers on Thursday at Wolff Stadium. - photo by Joe Alexander

Ryan Flores doubled, had a sacrific fly and drove in three of the Flying Chanclas’ four runs against the Brazos Valley Bombers on Thursday at Wolff Stadium. – photo by Joe Alexander

Ryan Flores produced three RBI for a team-best 15 on the season Thursday night in pacing the Flying Chanclas de San Antonio to a 4-3 victory over the Brazos Valley Bombers.

A season-high crowd of 1,521 at Wolff Stadium watched as Chanclas starter Logan Garza pitched into the sixth inning to stifle the Bombers.

With the victory, the Chanclas (13-7) gained a game in the standings against the Bombers (12-9) in a duel for the South Division title in the Texas Collegiate League.

The teams will play another three games starting Friday night in Bryan, all at Travis Field. Both teams have nine to play in the regular season.

With the Bombers playing in San Antonio, the Chanclas made the best of it, winning two of three games this week.

The Flying Chanclas' Jordan Thompson slides into third with a fifth-inning triple against the Brazos Valley Bombers on Thursday at Wolff Stadium. Thompson also walked and scored twice. - photo by Joe Alexander

The Flying Chanclas’ Jordan Thompson slides into third with a fifth-inning triple against the Brazos Valley Bombers on Thursday at Wolff Stadium. Thompson also walked and scored twice. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Brazos Valley cruised 6-1 in the opener Tuesday night to take the lead in the South by a half a game, before San Antonio turned it on with a 15-2 victory Wednesday night.

On Thursday, the Chanclas jumped out to an early lead and then held off the Bombers at the end, improving to 9-3 in their last 12 games.

In the bottom of the first inning, Flores mashed a sacrifice fly ball to center to drive in Jordan Thompson to make it 1-0. In the top of the second, the Chanclas’ defense came up big with their second double play in two innings.

When they came to bat in the bottom half, they made it 2-0 with the help of the help of the Bombers, who committed two infield errors.

Flores drove in single runs in both the fifth and the seventh. In the seventh, he hammered an opposite field drive into the left field corner that scored Thompson and made it 4-1. He was out at third trying to turn it into a triple.

Garza pitched the first five innings and Johnny Panatex entered to take care of the next three.

Garza struck out eight and allowed the only run of the game in the sixth. Panatex was particularly effective, holding the Bombers scoreless on two hits while striking out four.

The Bombers made it interesting in the ninth, scoring twice and putting runners at first and second with two out against Garrett Egli.

Grayson Tatrow, who had two hits on the night, flared one to left that looked like it had a chance to drop for a hit. But Anthony Forte raced in to make the grab for the final out.

Flying Chanclas starting pitcher Logan Garza threw five innings, allowed one run and struck out eight batters to get the win against the Brazos Valley Bombers on Thursday at Wolff Stadium. - photo by Joe Alexander

Flying Chanclas starting pitcher Logan Garza threw five innings, allowed one run and struck out eight batters to get the win. – photo by Joe Alexander

Runs-hits-errors

Brazos Valley 3 11 2
San Antonio 4 8 1
Please click on the link for Thursday night’s box score.

Records

Brazos Valley 12-9
San Antonio 13-7

Flying Chanclas reliever Johnny Panatex pitched three scoreless innings and allowed two hits while striking out four against the Brazos Valley Bombers on Thursday at Wolff Stadium. - photo by Joe Alexander

Flying Chanclas reliever Johnny Panatex pitched three scoreless innings and allowed two hits while striking out four. – photo by Joe Alexander

Coming up

San Antonio at Brazos Valley, Friday at 7:05 p.m.

Notable

Flores and Thompson are both on batting tears. Flores, from Corpus Christi Carroll and the University of the Incarnate Word, is hitting .357 on a seven-game batting streak and .323 for the season … In the streak, he is 10 for 28 with seven RBI. He has driven in five runs in his last two games.

Thompson, meanwhile, is batting .538 in his last four games. In that stretch he is 7 for 13 with two doubles and a triple. The former standout at Boerne Champion High School has also scored seven runs. The burst has lifted Thompson’s batting average to .312 …

Flying Chanclas win 15-2 to regain first place in TCL South

Flying Chanclas starter Marcelo Perez pitched 4.0 scoreless innings on three hits with five strikeouts and three walks on Thursday against the Brazos Bend Bombers at Wolff Stadium. - photo by Joe Alexander

Flying Chanclas starter Marcelo Perez pitched four scoreless innings in a 15-2 victory over Brazos Valley. Perez allowed three hits and struck out five. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Marcelo Perez pitched four scoreless innings, and Grant Smith enjoyed a three-hit, three-RBI night Wednesday as the Flying Chanclas de San Antonio rolled to a 15-2 victory over the Brazos Valley Bombers at Wolff Stadium.

With the win, the Chanclas avenged a 6-1 loss to the Bombers in the series opener Tuesday and moved back into first place in the South Division standings of the Texas Collegiate League.

The Chanclas (12-7) and the Bombers (12-8) will play again Thursday night at Wolff, before the teams move on to play three more starting Friday at Travis Field in Bryan.

Perez, from Laredo Alexander and TCU, was sharp from the beginning.

He kept throwing strikes to challenge the visitors, and the visitors kept making outs. Through the first three innings, Perez had a strike-ball ratio of 32-13. His teammates responded in the bottom half with three runs to take a 3-0 lead.

For his night’s work, Perez pitched four scoreless innings and allowed only three hits. He walked three but he also struck out five.

The Chanclas made up for a poor showing in Tuesday’s series opener by blowing away the Bombers in the middle innings.

After scoring three runs in the third, the Chanclas added one in the fourth, five in the fifth and one in the sixth for a 10-0 lead. Smith, from the University of the Incarnate Word, sparked the uprising in the fifth with a two-run single.

The Flying Chanclas' Grant Smith had three hits, three RBIs and scored three times on Thursday against the Brazos Valley Bombers at Wolff Stadium. - photo by Joe Alexander

Grant Smith had his second three-hit game in the last four outings. He also drove in three runs and scored three. -Photo by Joe Alexander

Runs-hit-errors

Brazos Valley — 2 5 2
San Antonio — 15 12 2
Please click on the link to find Wednesday’s box score.

Records

Brazos Valley 12-8
San Antonio 12-7

Coming up

Brazos Valley at San Antonio, 7:05 p.m. Thursday, at Wolff Stadium.

Notable

The Bombers hastened their own demise with wildness and walks. They issued nine bases on balls for the game.

Flying Chanclas left fielder Anthony Forte makes a diving catch on a fly ball that was knocked down by a strong breeze on Thursday against the Brazos Valley Bombers at Wolff Stadium. - photo by Joe Alexander

Flying Chanclas left fielder Anthony Forte makes a diving catch on a fly ball that was knocked down by a strong breeze on Wednesday against the Brazos Valley Bombers at Wolff Stadium. – photo by Joe Alexander

Chanclas shrug off adversity and start a roll into first place

Flying Chanclas de San Antonio manager John McLaren. - photo by Joe Alexander

Flying Chanclas manager John McLaren. – Photo by Joe Alexander

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.

Grant Smith ends it with a walk-off hit with two outs in the bottom of the 11th inning in the Flying Chanclas' 7-6 victory over the Victoria Generals on Saturday at Wolff Stadium. - photo by Joe Alexander

Grant Smith produced a standout defensive play and a game-winning hit Saturday night against Victoria. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Versatility

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.

Resilience

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.

Star potential

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.