Klein Collins baseball continuing to get better under coach Griffin
Every one of the past six seasons has been special for Klein Collins head baseball coach Chris Griffin.
Heading into the seventh year, the Tigers wanted to make it seven for seven in district championships.
The players understood what the program had on the line. However, in the new 2018-19 district Klein ISD was paired with Conroe ISD, resulting in a tough, competitive group.
“We don’t really concern ourselves about that a lot (district streak), we talk about our play,” fifth-year head coach Griffin said. “We’re playing better ball. We’re not where we need to be; we need to continue to get better. But these group of guys are fighters. They’re competitors and they want to be successful.”
Klein Collins (20-6, 13-3) finished tied for second place in District 15-6A along with Oak Ridge. The Woodlands placed first and Klein fourth, after a three-way tiebreaker with Conroe and Klein Oak.
The Tigers will face Cy Ranch in the area round, May 10, at 7:30 p.m. at Cy Ranch High School. In case of rain, the game could be played as early as 9 a.m., May 11, at Grand Oaks High School.
“If we play up to the group’s ability then we’re going to be tough to beat,” Griffin said.
In the bi-district round, Klein Collins faced off against Aldine. The Tigers won game one 9-1 and took care of business in game two with an 8-2 victory.
Griffin feels fortunate to be at Klein Collins, where they have good players, he said, and a great community.
“The kids know that; they’re raised that way, so it’s easy for us to kind of get their juices flowing to be competitive,” Griffin said. “They’re fired up and ready to compete…It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Griffin welcomes any motivation his program can use, and this year it just so happens to come from their fellow schoolmates in the softball program. The Lady Tigers just claimed their third straight district championship and are in the middle of a three-game series vs. Spring in the regional quarterfinals.
“Coach (Audra) Troutman does a great job over there and we talk all the time,” Griffin said. “But they got a special group over there this year I’ll tell you, they’re ready. We’re trying to get where they’re at, I promise you that.”
Setting the bar high
Last year’s district title team advanced to the third round but finished as regional quarterfinalists after losing to Round Rock 2-0. The Tigers had beaten Westfield and Anderson in the first two rounds.
“Its my 16th year, 10 years here at Klein Collins, every year our goal is to win the state title, every single year,” Griffin said. “And we’ve yet to do that. So, every year when we look back it’s always a little kind of disappointing. Just like anything, you put yourself out there on the line and you work hard for something, whenever you don’t achieve that goal, it hurts a little bit.
“But after time, we look back at all the memories we created and the bonds and friendships that we formed and just the battles that we went through, there’s a lot of great times. We wouldn’t change it for the world…Guys come back and we hear from them, a lot of great times, memories.”
This year in 15-6A, one of the toughest districts all-around, required extra games to determine a couple of seedings.
In the three-way tiebreaker for fourth place, Conroe had lost to Klein Oak to set up a matchup with Klein for the last playoff spot. The Bearkats then beat the Panthers 12-4 to advance.
“It’s a very good district, lot of good coaches, players, we’re just excited at taking the challenge on,” Griffin said. “It’s a fun district and there’s a lot of good teams.”
After starting the season 2-2, the Tigers won 11 straight games, including wins against the teams they had lost to earlier in the season, Oak Ridge and Klein Oak.
In the regular season finale, Klein Collins dropped its third game against The Woodlands, April 23, who evened the series at 1-1 and would go on to finish as district champions the following week.
In the seeding game for second and third place vs. Oak Ridge, April 27, the Tigers won 8-4 to clinch the second seed. Griffin has no doubt that the toughness of 15-6A is a huge advantage for the teams that advanced to postseason.
“We’re been going to the playoffs every year feeling good about ourselves and playing good ball,” Griffin said. “And you run into other teams that have the same thing going for them, so ultimately you just got to make plays when we get to the playoffs.”
Depth of the program
Many players on the current roster were around when the Tigers finished as regional quarterfinalists.
“A lot of these guys that are in the dugout, they were a part of it last year, either kind of being cheerleaders, having a certain role or some of them were starters,” Griffin said.
The program will lose seven players to graduation, another special group for Griffin. They feature pitcher Chris Benavides, catcher Mason Tomchesson and outfielder Reji Cubillo. There’s also Chris Garza, Bailey Figueroa and Parker Perez.
“They’re getting after it and they’ve been gradually stepping up and setting the tone for these younger guys,” Griffin said. “They’ve kind of been groomed for this, they’re excited and they don’t want to let anybody down…We’re working hard every day to make sure that they stay on top of things. We got to continue to play good baseball.”
Benavides may have been the No. 1 pitcher last year, according to Griffin.
“He’s kind of been through the fire,” Griffin said.
The group had the pressure to pick up where things left off, which has been the case for the last few classes.
“Great group of freshmen that came in, got a really solid class,” Griffin said.
With just over half a dozen seniors this year, the coaching staff already has a lot of juniors and sophomores that are on the team right now.
They include junior Elijah Comeaux, Seth Trevino, Jacob Evangelista, Josh Corvoba, Harrison Loftin, Benjamin Lujan, Alex Burton, sophomore Colby Powers, Colin Holman, Cole Prasse, Brycen Metoyer and Ruben Pena.
“It kind of thins out the junior varsity a little bit with that junior and sophomore class but we provide an environment for these guys to train and get better and to compete at the highest level,” Griffin said. “You look at the things that we got going on around, we try to run it top notch and there’s no reason when they leave here that they can’t become what they want to become.”
The coaching staff will try to provide that for the underclassman the best they can.
“I’m very excited about the groups below us and they have a lot of work to do to get better, just like these guys when they were freshman,” Griffin said. “The parents, the community, the school in general, just great support. These seniors are taking the bull by the horn and they’re rolling with it.
“We’re looking forward to the next game; continue to get better.”