A pair of Sam Houston State commits received a taste of success on their future home field during the 2019 UIL state baseball playoffs.
The Sweeny High School baseball team — which includes future Bearkats Wes Folse and Blake Benavides — clinched a Class 4A Region III title on Friday with a run-rule victory over Waco Robinson at Don Sanders Stadium.
Both teams took one game in a doubleheader earlier in the week, but the Bulldogs routed their opponent 11-1 in six innings during the decisive third game. Now, these future Kats — who beat Carthage in Huntsville a week prior in the regional semifinals — are off to the state tournament in Austin.
“The series was 1-1, but we’ve had our backs against the wall plenty of times,” Folse said after the game. “It was just another day at the park.”
For Folse and Benavides, who made their pledge to the Bearkats official in Fall 2018, the past two weeks have provided them a chance to get familiar with the stadium where they will spend the majority of their collegiate careers.
“It’s been super exciting coming here and playing at Sam,” Benavides said. “It’s awesome getting ready to play at the next level, and especially on our home field.”
“It almost felt like we had the home field advantage,” added Folse. “I can’t wait to play here.”
Both Folse and Benavides will be welcomed additions for the Bearkats.
Folse, a right-handed hitting catcher, will help provide depth behind the plate after the departure of second-team all-Southland Conference selection Jordan Cannon.
“He’s been a key cog in the Sweeny baseball machine since he stepped foot on campus there, earning first team all-district at catcher three years in a row,” Sam Houston State assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Lance Harvell said when the team announced its 2020 additions last fall.
“He was the 2018 district defensive MVP, all-county defensive MVP and earned all-state honors while helping lead his team to the state tournament. ... Wes is a guy who is just going to keep getting better and better, and I’m glad he’s going to do it in a Bearkat uniform.”
In Benavides, Sam Houston State brings in a potentially ‘dynamic’ outfielder that is capable of making an impact in various facets of the game.
“Blake is a dynamic athlete who fits extremely well into our program because he has strength and speed, and he’s a winner,” Harvell noted. “As a junior in 2018, he helped lead Sweeny to a runner-up finish at the state tournament while earning all-tournament honors at the state tournament, second-team All-Greater Houston, first-team all-district and all-county honors. ... He possesses and exudes that rare combination of being able to play the game with a huge chip on his shoulder, while at the same time having more fun than anyone else on the field.”
As for what drew them to the Bearkats, Folse and Benavides point to the program’s culture as a driving force in their decisions.
“Just the atmosphere, it felt like home,” Folse said. “With all the players and coaches, it just felt like the right fit.”
“That’s exactly it,” Benavides agreed.