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Time of their lives

Pioneer seniors reflect on high school, bonding before regional finals

The end of a school year and the start of summer is always a hectic, emotional and memorable time for high school seniors.

Now picture that plus a deep run into the UIL State Playoffs and you have the seniors on the 2022 Pioneer Diamondbacks baseball team.

Pioneer boasts a huge group of seniors. Last Saturday they advanced to round 5, or the Elite 8, and the very next morning they exchanged baseball uniforms and stirrups for the cap and gown as they walked across the stage at Bert Ogden Arena Sunday morning.

“Graduation is very emotional because you get to see these kids group up for four years,” interim Pioneer head coach Shawn Moes said at practice this week.

Sharyland Pioneer baseball seniors pose for a picture before heading out to Jourdanton. Progress Times photo by Maria “Cuca” Smith.

Moes has been at the high school since it opened and took over as head coach midway through the season. Most of his favorite memories with this group came at the pre-game or late-night dinner table with the squad.

“I think a lot of times it’s the team meals that we have when we’re on the road,” Moes said. “Number one to see some of these guys’ eating habits. Other than that just seeing the smiles and bonding. I think that’s the biggest thing. We learn life lessons while we’re doing this. It’s really just the kids and coaches being able to be together. It’s not about baseball in those moments…it’s just about hanging out together and enjoying each other as human beings. Those are the times I’m going to remember…sure I’m going to remember the great plays and the ups and downs. But the bonding with these young men is going to stay with me forever.”

While this postseason has been a whirlwind of Game 3s, intense comebacks and a return to familiar territory, it’s also been a lot of fun according to the seniors.

The Progress Times stopped by practice to ask the seniors about some high school memories that stuck with them outside of the baseball diamond as a way of getting up close and personal with them.

Pitcher Yaya Fuentes recalled leading a raucous gymnasium during volleyball season.

“My favorite high school memory was being at all of the volleyball games, pep rallies and leading the student section with all these guys,” Fuentes said. “Every single game we were there supporting.”

Shortstop Juan Rivera, who was a part of the 2019 State tournament qualifying group said his best memories came in the last few weeks.

“My favorite memory was being at prom with all these guys and hanging out. I had a lot of fun,” Rivera said.

Jacob Ruiz also pointed to the end of year fun.

“My favorite memory is just going to all these senior events with these guys and starting the rest of my life next year,” Ruiz said.

Aaron Rodriguez was also thinking of his future.

“My favorite memory would probably be graduating to start my life outside of high school,” He said. “All the hangouts with friends were definitely fun.”

Rafa Garza will be going to UTRGV next year and said finding out was a big moment.
“My favorite memory outside of baseball was probably getting accepted into college, knowing my life is barely going to begin,” He said. “I can’t wait to see what life holds.

Fernando Morales recalled a trip to North Texas to compete in a suit against some of Texas’ best future lawyers and debaters.

“My favorite non-baseball memory was going to state for Mock Trial in Dallas.” Morales said.

Graham LaGrange said the team getting close (to each other) off the field helped on the baseball diamond.

“Just all of the out-of-school activities with these guys,” LaGrange said. “We really created a strong bond and that’s helped us throughout the baseball season.”

Third baseman Oscar Serna is another player that started on the 2019 team.

“My favorite memory has been hanging out with all these seniors,” He said. “Going to events like prom, senior sunset and senior sunrise. It was fun seeing this team grow and just bonding and playing as a team.”

“My favorite memory was graduating on the day of my dad’s birthday,” second baseman Ryan Garza said.

Angel Larranga’s favorite memory was hanging out as a group.

Pitcher Abel Anzaldua looked back at sun, sand, and tans.

“My favorite memory outside of baseball was probably going to the beach during Spring Break and having fun with all my boys,” he said with a wide smile. “Just spending quality time together.”

Outfielder Stevie Quintanilla said his favorite memory outside of the games was the grub right before.

“Probably all the team dins (dinners) we have right before games,” Quintanilla said.

Centerfielder Joshua Benitez summed up what almost everyone was thinking in regards to how close the team got.

“I loved hanging out with these guys every day,” Benitez said. “We became like a family.”

Pioneer’s baseball family will have another opportunity to sweeten the memories of the 2022 baseball season this week.

Their Regional Final series against Georgetown, which is being played at Jourdanton High School, began with Game 1 last night. Game 2 will be played tonight, with a 7 p.m. start.

Game 3 will be necessary if the teams split the first two games and will take place tomorrow at 1 p.m. The Diamondbacks won in Game 3 of the last three playoff rounds but are hoping to avoid the extra drama this time if possible.

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