Mike Faherty is technically in his second year as the head baseball coach at College Park. But essentially, he feels like in some ways it’s still his first year.
Hired as the second Cavaliers leader in program history in the summer of 2019 after the departure of Jason Washburn, Faherty got to see his new team play for 13 whole games last spring before COVID-19 shutdown high school baseball for the rest of the year.
The Cavaliers lost seven seniors from that 5-8 team, but have a lot to be excited with many returning players as the season begins this week.
Faherty, who previously was an assistant at Houston Memorial, used the summer and fall of 2020 to continue evaluating his returning players and developing relationships with them as well.
“I had to work on building relationships,” Faherty said. “In reality, I was only here for six months when the season started. My main focus in the fall was really building relationships with our kids and really getting them to buy in. That was our main goal offseason-wise.”
He took to the road to watch some of the summer travel leagues that continued playing despite the ongoing pandemic.
“I had to go watch all our kids to continue to evaluate and see where our kids were at,” Faherty said. “Most of the guys on varsity on now, a lot of them only have 10-15 games of varsity experience.”
Faherty is excited for this group for multiple reasons. One doesn’t have anything to do with baseball. But has everything to do with one team’s culture rubbing off on his team.
College Park football won its first district title in the fall and some of those athletes are on the baseball team.
“The thing that really helps us is a lot of these kids play football,” Faherty said. “And a lot of these kids won the district championship in football. Now, I probably have four starters that know what it takes and are even more hungry now than they were when I first got her. It’s the simple fact that they know how to win a district championship and they want to do it baseball-wise too.”
College Park has 11 seniors this year and a number of players with playing experience from a year ago.
Senior pitchers include No. 1 starter Carter Gorling and continue on with Hank Hudson (infield), Alex Diaz (outfield) and Logan Murray. Gorling signed in February with Colorado School of Mines.
Andrew Vorst, a University of Texas-Dallas recruit, is at first base and brings a bat to the middle of the order. Carson Nolen will see time at second and third base. The catcher spot features Cal Garcia and a sophomore in Ben Blanchard.
John Montenegro, Haasan Malik, Jonathan Sisk and Ty Porter (University of Dallas signee) round out the seniors on the roster.
Juniors Harrison Helton (shortstop, top of the order) and Holden Rook (center field) will have significant roles, Faherty said.
Then there’s a group of 10th graders Faherty is looking foward to seeing what they can do.
“My sophomore group is really good,” Faherty said. “We are throwing three or four of them into the fire right now.”
Overall, Faherty feels confident in this group.
“Win or lose, I absolutely love this team,” Faherty said. “I 100% think that everybody in program (is ready).”
College Park will compete in District 13-6A along with long-time rivals The Woodlands, Oak Ridge and Conroe. Grand Oaks and Willis were elevated to 6A this school year and bring solid programs.
Faherty was complementary of the top-notch coaches in the league.
“They all do a great job,” Faherty said. “It’s very biased opinion…but I think this is one of the better districts. There’s no down team.”
Prior to 2020, College Park endured one of its toughest years as it missed the playoffs for the first time ever in 2019. The Cavaliers will try to emerge to make the postseason for the first time in three years. That team made it to the regional semifinals.
“Our development is through our failures and how we respond to those particular failures is who we are as a program,” Faherty said. “We’re going to have to be the grinders and those guys who have to out-work everybody.”