Last week, in front of a crowded room at New Caney ISD’s Texan Drive Stadium, the Porter baseball team had a pinnacle moment.
Four Spartans from the record-setting team of 2018 team signed to play in college.
“It helps our program in everything we do,” Porter second-year head coach Wayne Ralph said. “The young kids see them out there, their work ethic and all the time spent to achieve it. This year has been the highest baseball signing group that we’ve had at Porter High School.”
Max Dias (University of New Orleans), Zane Russell (Dallas Baptist University), Bryan Westenberg (Western Texas College) and Corey Schulz (Vernon College) all made it official.
They will all be looked upon to continue off of Porter’s 22-11-1 season. The win-total was the most in Spartans history as they reached the postseason for just the second time ever.
Porter, which had an 11-game winning streak during the regular season, won the opening game of the bi-district round against Port Neches-Groves last May before getting eliminated in three games.
The Spartans lose a starting pitcher in Patrick Hine and starting catcher Brent Sipe from that team.
“Everyone else is pretty much back,” Ralph said.
Dias will once again be looked upon as the leader at the plate. As a junior, the third baseman/outfielder hit .505 with a homer, eight doubles and six triples. He was an absolute terror on the base paths with 37 stolen bases. He was first-team All-State, the District 21-5A Offensive MVP and a first-team All-Montgomery County selection in 2018.
“He looks really good,” Ralph said of Dias. “He’s hitting the ball with a lot of power and gap-to-gap. He’s gotten stronger. He’s just big and fast. He’s had a tremendous offseason. He’s the type kid that almost plays year round. I think he’ll have a special year again.”
Russell, a starting pitcher and shortstop, was a second-team All-Montgomery County selection at the utility spot as a junior. He returns after hitting .373 at the plate while pitching to a 7-1 record and a 1.52 ERA.
Senior Bryan Westenberg is also back after a successful junior year. The second-team All-Montgomery Count selection batted .339.
Ralph also returns Logan Martin and Tayler Baker — both seniors. Seth Sherlock, a sophomore, will step into the starting catcher role. The Spartans also add a transfer from Kingwood in junior Aidan Heard.
Aside from Zane Russell, the Spartans pitching staff shapes up with Schulz (All-District honorable mention last year), Zane’s younger brother Jace Russell, a sophomore, and junior Coltin Atkinson, who mainly plays second base.
“I think we have more depth this year than maybe we’ve ever had,” Ralph said of his pitching staff.
Porter has its eyes on the big prize this year. A trip to Round Rock and the Class 5A tournament is something every team is striving for.
But first, a loaded District 20-5A awaits. The Spartans will have to contend with rival New Caney as well as Montgomery, Lake Creek, Willis, Caney Creek, Huntsville, Tomball and Kingwood Park, which reached the state final four last June.
“The goal is always to get to Dell Diamond,” Ralph said. “You don’t start a season without aspirations of Dell Diamond. But, the first goal is to get in (the playoffs). If you can get in, anything can happen.”