One season can make all the difference.
Take Navarro’s Evans Hendricks, who signed to play NCAA Division I college baseball for Texas State University on Thursday.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Hendricks, 19, said. “I’ve had to do a lot of hard work to get to this point in my life. I couldn’t have gotten here without the support of my family, friends and all the coaches. Ever since I was a little kid, my goal was to play DI baseball and go on to the pros. I’m pursuing that goal right now and I’m accomplishing it.”
The lefty became the No. 1 starter for the Panthers just this spring, and thrived in the role, even though his record might not have shown it.
Hendricks earned the Seguin Gazette’s Pitcher of the Year honor, despite a 3-6 record — because records can be misleading.
Evidently, coaches at the next level looked past the record too, instead looking deeper at the District MVP, his 100 strikeouts, a 1.56 ERA, and that he only allowed 14 hits all season long.
Some incredible statistics that got him noticed, especially after amazing performances in a couple of games this spring.
Hendricks picked a good game to have his breakout performance of the year, at the Bandera tournament in March, when he overwhelmed batters from the mound and made the cover of a baseball magazine.
“Through 8.1 innings I had 19 strikeouts,” Hendricks said. “I made the front cover of Texas High School Baseball for 4A Pitcher of the Week. As soon as that happened, I was getting phone calls from different schools, from D3 to D1, all over the place.”
Immediately thereafter, in the playoffs, Hendricks showed what he could do again, tossing a no-hitter and getting the walk-off hit for the win.
“That also drew a lot of attention, and it just so happened that a Texas State scout was at that game,” Hendricks said. “He told me after the game that he was going to go call the Texas State coach, tell him to shoot me a text and see what’s up.”
Left-handed pitchers are particularly in demand, and Hendricks realizes it’s a bonus that he pitches from that side.
“He’s a lefty and those are special, especially when you are throwing in the low 90s and upper 80s,” Navarro head coach Kris Cavazos said. “He’s got more in him and I think he’s going to contribute up there.”
Texas State was in need of left handers as a couple went down with injuries last season, Hendricks said.
“They were down to one,” he said. “They’ve replenished by going to the JUCO’s, but I definitely feel like I can go and contribute early, especially since I’m a left-handed pitcher. I can be a real asset to them.”
Hendricks was also a good hitter at the high school level, hitting six home runs, four triples and five doubles on the year.
But the offensive side is secondary to the pitching for him at the next level.
“I wasn’t really planning on going as a two-way player, but if the opportunity arises I would jump on it,” he said. “Everybody that plays baseball as a little kid wants to hit the ball as far as they can, and I love hitting.”
The breakout season on the mound came after he was the third starter at Navarro his junior year.
“We had two seniors that were our aces,” Hendricks said. “They took all the heavy games and I kind of came in for backup and as a relief pitcher.”
Picking a school
Hendricks chose Texas State after hearing from some larger DI schools, including Penn State, New Mexico, UT Arlington and Abilene Christian, among many others.
Steven Trout was named the head coach at Texas State on July 1 after the retirement of longtime coach Ty Harrington. The Bobcats were the 2019 Sun Belt Conference regular season champions.
“They were all really great offers, but what really sold me on Texas State was Coach Trout personally, and how well the baseball team was doing,” Hendricks said.
Trout was the recruiting coordinator as an associate head coach at the school while recruiting Hendricks.
Cavazos has had a couple of players make it to the next level as an assistant coach, but Hendricks is the first to play on the collegiate level out of a program where he’s been the head coach.
“You can tell when a kid really wants to play the game, they have a work ethic and their character is strong,” Cavazos said. “When you see those kids that want to get to the next level, you build a bond and a relationship with them. Giving him innings to see what he can do, and getting him to the next level, is really special and we’re going to miss him.”
Going to a DI school means that one day in the next four years, Hendricks could play in the College World Series.
“It will be little tougher since we are not a Power 5 conference, but if we win our conference, and win the conference tournament, we can make sure to get a bid and take it to the College World Series,” he said. “Of course, that is the goal. It will be until I graduate.”