National baseball champions become Lufkin High School freshmen

Eight members of Junior League USA squad had their first day of high school delayed by national, world championship games

Maria Mejia, Panther Growls staff member

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Lufkin High School students who played on the Southwest team that won the Junior League USA championship last week included, from left to right, (front row) Gavin Del Toro, Aidan Wood, Cameron Jackson, Sam Flores, (back row) Ricky Rodriguez, Christian Mumphery, Bebo Hinojosa and Hunter Ditsworth. (Photo by ANDY ADAMS/Lufkin ISD)

Lufkin’s 2017 Little League national champions aren’t so little anymore.

Six members of that team joined seven other players on Lufkin’s squad that beat California 5-2 last week to become the Junior League USA champions. The team just missed winning a world championship, falling to Chinese Taipei 2-0 on Sunday in Taylor, Michigan.

Eight members of the Junior League USA championship team — Gavin Del Toro, Hunter Ditsworth, Sam Flores, Bebo Hinojosa, Cameron Jackson, Christian Mumphery, Ricky Rodriguez and Aidan Wood — began their freshman year at Lufkin High School this week.

Ditsworth said playing with new teammates this year was “a different experience.” Mumphery called it “a big adjustment,” with more strict rules than last year.

Other members of the team were four Lufkin Middle School eighth-graders — Chip Buchanan, Charlie Deaton, Kolby Kovar and Mark Requena — and Kyle Johnson, a Central ISD student. Oralio Flores was the head coach, and Ryan Deaton and Juan Hinojosa were the assistant coaches.

Lufkin High School senior Giselle Requena, Mark’s sister, said she knew the team would be able to win the title this year because of the players and coaches.

“Seeing the other teams play, they were really good, but I think, of course, Texas had much greater potential,” she said.

Flores said he didn’t expect much going in. Flores said what helped them succeed was not just hard work, but also not wanting to let each other down.

Lufkin High School sophomore Matthew Gorman, who is a cousin to Ditsworth, said he noticed that there was more competition this year, but was impressed on how much the team had improved. Gorman is also part of the LHS baseball team. He said the Junior League champs will be of much help to the Panthers’ baseball program.

“We should be good this next season,” he said.

Wood said he and his Junior League teammates from LHS are looking forward to working with Panthers Head Coach John Cobb.

Cobb said the boys made a drastic improvement in just this season. He said he saw the Lufkin Junior League team members play in Tyler and was impressed by “their togetherness, the way they competed, and the way they played for each other and went out and got the job done.”

“They didn’t play with any nerve,” he said. “They had ice water running through their veins!”