Texas College Boasts Nine California Players

California Nine: The Texas College Steers baseball team has nine players who hail from California. The nine include (from left) Evander Ledward, Aaron Savia, Moises Espinoza, Jose Serna, Julian Coffin-Lennear, Artie Lopez, Corey Heidebrecht, Juan Carrillo and Aldo Montoya. (Sarah A. Miller | Tyler Morning Telegraph)

The Texas College baseball team practices California love to the full.

With nine Californians on the roster, the Steers boast a sizeable West Coast presence.

Four hail from Northern California’s Bay area: Juan Carillo, Julian Coffin-Lennear, Moises Espinoza and Corey Heidebrecht.

Four more call Southern California and the Los Angeles area home: Artie Lopez, Aldo Montoya, Aaron Savoia and Jose Serna.

The quartet of native Hawaiian Evander Ledward, Lopez, Montoya and Savoia all attended Compton College. Three spent time together at Laney College: Carillo, Coffin-Lennear and Espinoza.

Heidebrecht played college ball at Chabot, which also produced TC assistant coaches Mike Holochuck and Nick Pena.

“We’re trying to change the attitude of our players,” said Pena, who coached the Steers to a victory earlier in the year with Holochuck and Rodriguez both absent from action. “That’s why we recruit some of the California guys. We just want to change the attitude, get a different element in here and get a good vibe together.”

TC head coach Freddy Rodriguez credited his assistants for their California connections.

“They’ve been here since I’ve been here,” said Rodriguez, in his sixth year at TC. “It’s been a blessing to have two assistants capable of branching out and bringing those players to Texas.”

With the influx of talent, TC finds itself headed to the conference tournament for the fourth straight season.

“It’s been a great step in the right direction, coach Pena and myself starting a foundation and each year bringing more guys to the program and more depth,” said Holochuck, who joined the coaching staff after batting .371 as a senior. “It’s a different attitude, guys that have come from winning programs and their desire to come out here and take us to the next level.”

With a diverse roster, players often chat about in-state and out-of-state rivalries, such as The Bay vs. L.A. and California vs. Texas.

“They know me as a jokester,” said Serna, who ranks fifth in the Red River Athletic Conference with a .389 batting average. “I like to talk about Cali and how we have beaches and nice girls, and the best weather.”

Heading into the final series of the season today, a home doubleheader with Southwestern Assemblies of God starting at 11 a.m., the Steers see themselves as a more complete team.

“It’s definitely been a journey,” said Heidebrecht, who has 19 stolen bases on the season. “In the beginning we butted heads, but now you find the people gelling and bonding.”

Montoya mentioned forgetting where you’re from as much and concentrating on the place you’re at now.

“When you come to a program like this you have to buy in,” Montoya said. “You can’t say ‘I’m from California.’ You’re in Texas for a reason. You grow love for Texas and your teammates. They have a little California love too.”

One of three Oakland natives on the team, along with Carillo and Coffin-Lennear, Carillo considers TC a team in the truest sense.

“We’re like a family,” said Carillo, who is batting .393 on the season. “We’ve been on a roll lately. Everybody’s on the same page. We look out for each other and play hard,”

Lopez shared Carillo’s opinion.

“We have a bunch of guys you wouldn’t think would mesh so well,” said Lopez, who has two homers on the season. “It’s like that brother you never had. That’s what I think helps win games. We have good camaraderie and we believe in each other.”

The one common element, baseball brings the team together.

“We’re all from somewhere different,” said Savoia, who is batting .306. “But we have one goal in common.”

“We’ve got a lot of different personalities that fit well,” said Coffin-Lennear, who is redshirting this season. “We do stuff together like brothers, which is good.”

Having guys familiar with your background “makes it a little easier,” added Espinoza, who also said “in general baseball is baseball.”

The Steers enter today’s final series of the regular season on a five-game win-streak, thanks to a solid pitching staff with 10 complete games to its credit.

“It’s a team effort,” said Ledward, who sports a 2-1 record and 0.49 ERA. “We’re only as good as our defense. If everybody does their job we get a win.”

The Steers owned wins over the top three teams in the conference heading into last weekend, including top-ranked LSU-Shreveport. The Steers averaged 14.6 hits over their last five wins.

“We’re on a roll,” Serna said. “Our pitchers are pitching great and our hitters are hitting the ball. If we keep playing like this (we have a chance) to take it all.”

Assuming TC continues its streak into the weekend, when the RRAC tournament begins on Saturday in Shreveport, La., several players like the teams’ chances of winning its first-ever NAIA postseason game.

“We’re hot right now,” Montoya said. “We’re playing good baseball. When you’re hot a lot can happen. You just have to roll with the momentum.”

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Texas College Californians

Player Yr. Pos. Previous College Hometown Favorite Team

Juan Carillo Jr. 1B Laney Oakland A’s

Julian Coffin-Lennear RSo. IF Laney Oakland A’s

Moises Espinoza Jr. OF Laney Oakland A’s

Corey Heidebrecht Jr. IF Chabot Pleasanton A’s/Giants

Evander Ledward So. P Compton Hawaii Braves

Artie Lopez Jr. 1B Compton Oxnard Angels

Aldo Montoya Jr. P Compton Los Angeles Angels

Aaron Savoia Jr. C Compton Lawndale Dodgers

Jose Serna Jr. C/OF Pasadena Los Angeles Dodgers, Angels

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