UFCU Disch-Falk Field before an NCAA college baseball game between Texas and Boise State in Austin, Friday, Feb., 21, 2020. [Stephen Spillman for Statesman]

Baseball

‘The expectation at Texas is to win championships and that’s exactly what we plan to do’: A Q&A with Texas’ new baseball commits

Posted June 26th, 2020

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Texas hasn’t played a baseball game in more than 100 days, but the team has kept busy this offseason.

The Longhorns recently received five commitments in the span of seven days. Lampasas pitcher Ace Whitehead and Monsignor Kelly first baseman Gavin Kash joined the 2021 recruiting class. And Texas added three 2022 pledges in Summer Creek infielder Jayden Duplantier, San Antonio Brandeis infielder Jalin Flores and PSJA outfielder Viggo Lopez.

Recently, the American-Statesman talked with the recruits about their commitments and futures at Texas.

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Ace Whitehead, Lampasas outfielder/pitcher (LHP)

Also one of the area’s top quarterbacks, Whitehead’s future is in baseball. Before his junior season was abruptly ended by the coronavirus pandemic, he was hitting .527. He had compiled a 3-1 record and a 0.92 ERA on the mound.

Why Texas?

I’ve grown up watching the Horns and it has always been a dream of mine since I was little to wear the burnt orange and white.

Were you considering any other schools?

I had been offered by Army and had a call with Texas Tech the night I committed. I was also talking to OU and Sam Houston State.

What do you want to accomplish once you get to Texas?

The expectation at Texas is to win championships and that’s exactly what we plan to do. Big 12 titles and national championships.

What should Texas fans know about you and how you play?

Texas fans should know that they’re getting an incredibly hard worker who is ecstatic to be a Longhorn. I play the game fast and fearless.

Tell me about your history with baseball.

I’ve played ball since I was 4 years old in T-ball. This summer is actually the first summer I’ve played travel ball since seventh grade. I’ve always been so busy with 7-on-7 and combines that I haven’t really been able to bear down a little.

Has playing football helped you develop as a baseball player?

Yes. Football has taught me so much. It has made me mentally tougher, stronger and faster physically and helped me to become a better leader.

You won’t be the first standout from Lampasas to join the athletic department at Texas. What do you know about Lam Jones?

My dad used to have Johnny come into his office when I was young. I talked to him on multiple occasions and he always told me that the University of Texas is where I need to go. He’s been an inspiration throughout my entire life.

Gavin Kash, Monsignor Kelly first baseman

A former Duke pledge, Kash can play both corners of the infield. During his sophomore year, he hit .324 with five homers. That spring, MaxPreps named him a Sophomore All-American.

Why Texas?

It’s just a great opportunity. Whenever I first started my recruiting process a long time ago, Texas was always a place I wanted to go, but I never got the opportunity to go there. This is definitely righting the wrong that I got. I’m glad I got to choose to go to Texas.

Were you considering any other schools?

Texas Tech and A&M.

What do you want to accomplish once you get to Texas?

You always want to accomplish winning a national championship. That’s always the hope.

What should Texas fans know about you and how you play the game of baseball?

I bring a lot to the table. Big bat. Just ready to show what I’ve got.

Tell me about your history with the game of baseball.

I started when I was three. My brother (Greyson) was two, three years older than me, so whenever he played little league, I always played with his age group. I was already with the older people from the beginning, so that kind of helped me out competition-wise.

Your favorite player is Atlanta 1B Freddie Freeman. Do you see any similarities in your games?

Definitely our bat swing. It’s kind of who I try to resemble the most.

What’s the best baseball advice you’ve received?

My hitting coach (Chris Fackler) from a long time ago said, “Your swing is never perfect. You can always learn something.” Going forward, I always have an open mind. Always know there’s something better.

Jayden Duplantier, Summer Creek infielder

During his freshman year in 2019, Duplantier hit .337 and scored 24 runs. District 22-6A’s newcomer of the year had more walks (19) than strikeouts (13). Duplantier’s older brother, Andre, was a freshman pitcher and infielder at Texas this spring.

Why Texas?

Texas has, in fact, always been a school that I’ve aspired to go to. With its great program, they carry a high competitive standard in which I’m all about. It’s a place where I can work hard, perform, and ultimately strive to be great.

Were you considering any other schools?

I did have other schools interested in me. I had been speaking to a number of coaches and received an offer. Throughout the process I never committed, but when the opportunity with Texas came, I knew it was right.

What do you want to accomplish once you get to Texas?

Something I want to accomplish or goal I have when I get there is to compete and really show people what I can do. My goal is to basically get there, do my thing, and help the team win a College World Series.

What should Texas fans know about you and how you play the game of baseball?

A couple things Texas fans should know about me is that I’m always gonna hustle and play the game how it should be played. I simply love playing the game hard and giving it all I got. Also, I’m a good student.

Tell me about your history with the game of baseball.

Baseball began for me when I was around 6. I was always around the diamond, though. I remember being at my brother’s games on the weekends. I never really got into basketball, football, etc. I just loved the way my hand smelled after being in the glove. I liked the sound of squaring a ball up. I liked the sound when moving from molded cleats to spikes. Basically, I saw my brother and cousin play and I was hooked.

If your brother doesn’t leave Texas early, he’d be a senior during your freshman year. Have you guys talked about the possibility of playing together?

We actually haven’t, because at the end of the day, my goal in relation to my commitment to Texas isn’t to just play with him. I made varsity as a freshman at Summer Creek and had an opportunity to play with him. He’s been at short with me at second. I’ve been in the middle infield behind him while he was pitching during his senior year. It was cool. In fact, the entire family enjoyed that and will definitely be something that I will cherish forever.

Since your brother is on campus and you are a young Black athlete, how much attention have you paid to the recent activism among athletes at Texas?

Of course with everything going on, I have paid attention to it. I can’t control anything that goes on at Texas at this point. But my brother and I speak about social matters often with my parents.

We obviously know about you and Andre, but your cousin also pitches for the Diamondbacks. Who is the best baseball player in your family?

I’ve yet to face Dre or Jon, so I will hold back on answering that question. However, they BOTH KNOW who runs the Ping-Pong table.

Jalin Flores, San Antonio Brandeis infielder

 

Flores was an all-district outfielder at Brandeis during the 2019 season, but he has been recruited to Texas as an infielder. According to MaxPreps, he played 15 times this spring. He was hitting .333 with 14 runs when the season abruptly ended.

Why Texas?

The choice wasn’t really hard. Texas has been a top school since I was little being able to compete in the big 12 playing on a beautiful field with burnt orange on is a blessing. Nothing beats those pinstripes, baby.

Were you considering any other schools?

Yes, my top three schools were Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Texas. All three schools are great places to be, but nothing beats Texas.

What do you want to accomplish once you get to Texas?

The main goal is to help my team go to Omaha. Then once we are there, win the national championship.

What should Texas fans know about you and how you play the game of baseball?

Texas fans should be ready because I play hard and fast and I do it with a smile.

Tell me about your history with the game of baseball.

I fell in love with the game when I was 10 and just didn’t stop working since then. Baseball has treated me well and keeps me going 24/7.

Your brother plays baseball at St. Edward’s. How big is baseball in the Flores home?

Baseball is very big in the Flores household. You walk in and you can feel the intensity. There are pictures everywhere with me and my brothers in our uniforms.

Who is your favorite player and why?

Cody Bellinger, because he is young and plays the game with swag but he stays humble. He’s just shows love for the game and doesn’t show when he’s down.

Viggo Lopez, PSJA outfielder

Both Lopez and Flores are members of a South Texas Sliders travelling program that claims recent UT signees Lance Ford, Douglas Hodo III, Sam Walbridge and Travis Sthele among its alumni. Lopez is also a multi-sport athlete at PSJA. As a sophomore, he caught 34 footballs for the Bears’ playoff team.

Why Texas?

It wasn’t difficult to decide. It was a goal of mine to play in a Division I school, and when I got the offer, I said “yes!”

Were you considering any other schools?

I was considering Texas, A&M and Baylor.

What do you want to accomplish once you get to Texas?

I want to help my team make it to the College World Series and WIN the national championship.

What should Texas fans know about you and how you play the game of baseball?

The Texas fans should know that I will bring my best to the game with a strong bat and speed.

Tell me about your history with the game of baseball.

I have been playing since I was 5 years old, and I fell in love with the game. I loved the competition as I got older and joined a traveling team.

What is your connection with former Texas catcher Tres Barrera and what has he told you about UT?

I (followed Tres) when he was playing for UT. I then got the opportunity to meet him when I joined the South Texas Sliders. He is helping me with my training and has been my mentor through this process. He told me that I made a great choice and that I will have a great experience like he did during his career at UT.

Who is your favorite player and why?

My favorite baseball player is Ken Griffey Jr., because he generated so much power with such an effortless swing.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with an interview with Lopez.

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