Baseball Preview: Jarvis Christian and Texas College… the Battle of I-20

Texas College Sports Information

The Jarvis Christian Bulldogs open their Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC) series with the Texas College Steers on Friday, April 26th in a critical conference matchup on the campus of Jarvis Christian in Hawkins, TX, in the 3rd Annual interstate battle better known as the Battle of I-20.

Jarvis Christian College is located north, and Texas College south, of the I-20 corridor.  The two teams will square off this weekend in a three-game series in a contested rivalry of two Texas HBCU Baseball programs separated by fourteen miles. This series is for more than just bragging rights.

Jarvis Christian, Texas College and Houston-Victoria are in a dog fight for the last two seeding positions for the RRAC Conference Tournament. For each team, the last three games of the regular season is a do or die series. Jarvis and Texas College needs to win one game each in the series to clinch a spot in the RRAC tournament which will be hosted by LSU-Shreveport in Shreveport, Louisiana, on May 3-6.

Houston-Victoria must win all three games and hope that one of the two HBCU Baseball programs sweep the other for an outside chance to make the field.

The Battle of I-20, (JCC is 30-20 overall and 13-11 in the RRAC and TC is 23-28 overall and 12-12 in the conference) will close conference play on Saturday, April 27th. First pitch of the double-header is scheduled for 12 pm Central Time.

The two conference rivals are ranked in Black College Nines’ (BCN) latest Top 10 small school poll.

Recently, Jarvis Christian dropped a key series at the NAIA’s No. 11 ranked team, LSU-Shreveport, while Texas College is coming off of a four-game series sweep against Huston-Tillotson.  The Steers have won 10 of their last 12 ball games.

The season ending test could determine placement in the conference tournament where both teams could be contenders for the conference title and then get into a position to be invited to the NAIA National Tournament.

For the Bulldogs, offensively, they have been of late struggling to score runs with runners in scoring position. Jarvis is led by Carlos Reyes, hitting .401 with 5 doubles, 3 triple and 20 runs batted in. Joshua Romero is hitting .365 with one double and 17 runs batted in 19 games. Abran Luevano is hitting .349 with 6 doubles with 19 runs driven in.

Kevin Ciprian, Byron Buckley, Jonas Garcia and Austen Pulcher are all hitting over .300. Chandler Matthews leads the team in home runs with four and 31 runs batted in.

On the mound, Jarvis Christian is led by Thomas Cleveland (4-0) and reliever/closer/starter RHP Phillip Griego who is 8-1 with a 2.84 earned run average. Righties Tyler Holt (6-3), Wyatt Jones (5-4) and Anthony Orta (3-5) with a team leading 82 strikeouts, all should see weekend action if needed.

The Texas College ballclub is a good hitting team. At the plate, Josiris Del Orbe Martinez is hitting .384 with 16 doubles, 4 home runs with 27 runs batted in.  Hunter Babineaux is hitting .371 with 11 doubles, one triple, five home runs and 36 runs batted in.  Carlos Collazo is hitting .355 with 2 home runs and 31 RBIs and Kyle Smith is hitting .350 with 12 doubles, 3 home runs and 27 runs batted in.

Black College Nines’ Pre-Season All-Elite selection Cameron Phelts is batting .327 with 7 doubles, four triples, four home runs and 22 runs driven in from the leadoff spot. Phelts has stolen 32 bases. Additionally, Khalyd Cox is hitting .318 with 9 doubles, 5 triples, 7 home runs and 36 runs driven home to go along with 22 stolen bases.

On the pitching side, Texas College boasts the arms of Joseph Panalez (7-4), Roderick Voisin (5-3), Cameron Charman (4-3) with a 4.00 earned run average and Michael Traylor (3-3) with a 4.34 earned run average and 40 strikeouts. Closer Plillip Kennedy is 1-0 with a 3.86 earned run average should see action this weekend.

At the beginning of the season, Texas College starters Steven Pierce and Johnathan Charles picked up some big wins, but were beset by injuries during the early part of the season and are now coming off the injury list.

Series Notes:

  • The challenge for Jarvis Christian this weekend will be to score runs and not leave runners stranded on base.
  • Texas College should be well positioned to counter that, as they enter this series with a better on-base percentage and slugging percentage in the RRAC.
  • Steers Outfielder Khalyd Cox has been really hot swinging the bat.
  • Jarvis Christian RHP Tyler Holt’s last outing at LSU-Shreveport 8.1 innings pitched fanned 8, could be the work horse in the series.
  • The challenge for Texas College is that not many teams have stolen bases against Jarvis this season… allowing 69 coming into the contest.
  • All indications are that these two team could meet in the conference tournament.

Head Coach Comments:

Jarvis Christian Bulldogs’ Michael Holochuck stated “This year’s matchup looks to be a great series. I feel you have two teams built the same based around offense, base running and aggression. Like every series I think it will come down to who makes a play late. I have been really impressed to see Coach Macon and his staff get it turned around at TC and give him a lot of credit for the turnaround. His guys do a great job of competing and are never out of a game and that’s a reflection of his leadership. Being an alumni of Texas College and on that staff I like to see them do well all but one weekend of the year. There is still a lot to be determined in the RRAC so should be a fun series for both squads. GO DOGS!”

Texas College Steers’ Anthony Macon stated “The actual Battle of I-20 game is only 3 years old, however the rivalry between Texas College and Jarvis Christian goes back further than any of us currently on the field can recall. I personally thinks it’s the best rivalry series in the Red River Athletic Conference including the LSU-S/LSU-A series. And that’s not up for debate. The close proximity of the institutions and adding the hostility of the fans. It’s hard to explain on paper but once you participate in it you feel it’s something special. For example, we try to operate at the highest level 24/7 365, however this week the intensity is a little different. Hitters are swinging the bat harder and pitchers are bringing it a little different. We’ve had at least 50 to 100 people at our practice each day this week just supporting the guys. Nevertheless, I try to keep the guys grounded and even keel. I don’t want them burning out before the first pitch. I will not be putting any more pressure on the guys to win this week because of the rivalry. No pressure, no fear. Pressure is how you define it. Pressure is having to feed your family, dealing with health issues or bigger things in the world. We are playing baseball. It’s a great series and a tremendous opportunity to create a great memory. We are going to try and win it. Nothing more, nothing less. Go Steers!!!”

Friday afternoon’s game could feature a matchup of impressive starters. Pitching could decide the outcome for both ball clubs this weekend.

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