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Mathis Pirate Pitcher Julius Rivas is ranked No. 1 for strikeouts in the nation according to MaxPreps. 

The Mathis Pirate baseball is in full swing this year, which wasn’t the case just one year ago when COVID-19 shut down schools along with all athletic programs.

Mathis baseball coach Eric Martinez was in his first year coaching at the school when the field lights went dark. So once schools began to reopen and sports began to ramp up, he was ready to go, albeit with an unlikely pitcher leading the charge.

The Pirates currently have a record of 14-9 and 8-1 in district play.

“We used our tournaments early in the year to kind of find out a little bit of ourselves,” Martinez said early last week. “And now we should be clinching the playoffs sometime this week. I know we will clinch it, just depends on when.

“We are currently just heading to our goal getting to be the district champions, but we have five games left with some tough opponents in Orange Grove, Odem, Taft and Skidmore so we’ll just take it day by day.”

And one player has stepped up to make sure the team continues to deliver.

Junior Julius Rivas said he’d been pitching since middle school, but ended up playing catcher for most of his prep baseball career. This year, however, he was called to the mound once more.

“I mean, it always looked fun,” Rivas laughed, “then there was one game where we ran out of pitchers, and I was only one left that could pitch and kind of knew the basics. 

“I did ended up doing pretty good, and it just kept on going.”

So good in fact that the sports website Maxpreps has him ranked No. 1 in strikeouts for the nation with 95 total as of April 13. And they still have more games to play.

“It just kind of happened really quickly,” Coach Martinez said. “We looked at it this weekend, and it was kind of one of those things where we were in awe about it.

“I had to refresh the screen to make sure that it was correct then I needed to find out if it was in the nation or in the state because he’s been No. 1 in strikeouts this whole season so it made sense if it was just Texas.

“But when I saw that it was the nation I thought, ‘Wow, this is something pretty special now,’ You know?”

Rivas added, “I didn’t actually know anything about it until my cousin showed me. I was pretty shocked; it was pretty crazy.

“I was just joking around about it because I didn’t think it was true.”

Martinez said that Rivas will more than likely sit out a few games so he can rest and be ready should they head into the playoffs.

“I’m very excited to go to the playoffs because we’ve had a pretty good year so far, and I think we’re ready, so we’ll see.”

•pgonzales@mysoutex.com•

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