LEAGUE CITY – Two more Clear Creek Wildcats baseball players will be continuing their baseball careers on the college level — just as soon after they end their senior years next season with a hoped-for bang.
Pitcher Zach Esquivel announced Wednesday that he will commit to play baseball for the Rice Owls, while first baseman Harrison Hill, The Galveston County Daily News’ player of the year, recently made his pledge to suit up for the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi baseball team.
Esquivel said he was strongly encouraged by his sister, who attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to attend a college with strong academics, for which Rice fit the bill.
Also giving Rice an edge for Esquivel was its consistent success in baseball, its scenic campus and its proximity to some excellent eateries.
Esquivel said he reached out to the Rice coaching staff his sophomore year, and after a year of frequent contact, a recent performance at a Rice baseball camp sealed the deal.
“I pitched for them, and I guess they liked what they saw,” Esquivel said. “They invited me back to come look at the campus, and while we were there, they made me an offer, and it was awesome.”
For Hill, the college recruitment process was not nearly as lengthy, with Texas A&M-CC inquiring about him with Wildcats head coach Brent Kunefke around the beginning of the 24-5A district schedule this season.
Representatives from the university then came to Clear Creek’s baseball field to see a practice.
Because of the scouts’ presence, Hill recalled that the practice had to go on, rain or shine.
“It was 40 degrees outside and raining, and we still practiced because they were there,” Hill said.
The tenacity of practicing through far less than desirable conditions paid off for Hill, as the school invited him for a campus tour and to watch a practice.
After speaking on more specifics about the program with the coaches, Hill said he was sold and immediately committed.
“They told me how the program was run, I was in it from the get-go,” Hill said, adding that the team’s practice style is almost identical to Clear Creek practices.
Hill said he also felt the college was the ideal fit for him because the campus recently added brand new business school buildings, which is the field he said he plans to study.
With his next step on his baseball journey secured, Hill said he can now fully focus putting in the work needed for his next goal — getting drafted by Major League Baseball.
“Now, I’m thinking about working really hard to try to get drafted. There’s always a next step in baseball; it just never stops,” Hill said.
Keeping their eyes on the prize
Both Esquivel and Hill were quick to point out that before they continue their baseball careers in college, there is still unfinished business for their senior years — namely bringing a state baseball championship to Clear Creek.
“Well, right now the main goal for next year at Creek is to get to state and get past the round we did this year,” Esquivel said. “We did really good this year, getting to the third round. I don’t think anyone thought we would get that far. So, hopefully next year we can go all the way.”
As the ace of the Clear Creek pitching staff this past season, Esquivel compiled a 7-1 record with a 2.05 earned run average this season.
Esquivel struck out 70 batters in 611/3 innings, and had three complete games, including one complete game shutout.
Esquivel’s postseason honors included a second team All-County nod, first team All-District and a selection to the Houston Area Baseball Coaches Association’s junior all-star game.
While his ability has been enough already to garner the offer from the college baseball power, Esquivel said he still has areas of his game upon which he feels he can improve next season, such as lowering his pitch count in games.
“That’s one of the problems I had this year,” Esquivel said. “My pitch count would get too high and I wouldn’t be able to finish games and we would have to go to relievers.”
In a breakout season for Hill, the Wildcats first baseman had a .414 batting average and broke the school’s single-season record for runs batted in with 50.
Still, Hill said he has room for growth next season.
“This year was great, but I want to mature as a player and help out my team as much as I can batting,” Hill said.
In addition to being named county player of the year, other postseason honors Hill has received include being named All-State second team by the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association, District 24-5A Most Valuable Player and earning a roster spot in the HABCA’s junior all-star game.
Another incoming Clear Creek senior who has also already made his college commitment is center fielder Satchel McElroy, who committed to the University of Houston.
McElroy had a .324 batting average with 21 RBIs, 17 stolen bases and 46 runs scored. McElroy tied Hill for the team lead in home runs this season with three.
Postseason accolades for McElroy included being named first team All-County, first team All-District and a selection to the HABCA junior all-star game.