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Victoria natives making a pitch for the Javelinas

Feb. 23, 2013 at 9:03 p.m.
Updated Feb. 23, 2013 at 8:24 p.m.

Victoria natives Jeremy Flores, left, and Denver Diefenbach have contributed their pitching skills to the early success of the Texas A&M-Kingsville baseball team this season. Flores attended Memorial, while Diefenbach graduated from St. Joseph.

Jeremy Flores and Denver Diefenbach don't have to imagine life without baseball.

They experienced it.

Flores, a senior, did not play for two years after graduating from Memorial before making the team at Texas A&M-Kingsville in a tryout.

Diefenbach, a junior, suffered a partial tear in his posterior tendon, which forced the St. Joseph graduate to take a medical redshirt to rehab the injury during his sophomore year in Kingsville.

Flores and Diefenbach returned and have played a key role in helping the Javelinas get off to an 11-3 start this season.

"It's just like anything else," Flores said before the Javelinas swept UHV in a doubleheader Friday at Riverside Stadium. "You don't miss it until it's gone. It really put into perspective how much I do love the game and how much I've dedicated myself to doing it.

"A couple of years without baseball was tough, but it makes it that much more sweet now that I've played four years in college."

Flores is A&M-Kingsville's closer and picked up his fourth save of the season in the Javelinas' 3-1 win over UHV on Saturday at Nolan Ryan Field in Kingsville.

Diefenbach has pitched in middle relief and threw two scoreless innings in the first game of Friday's doubleheader.

"They've grown into their roles," said Javelinas' coach Jason Gonzales, a Cuero graduate. "The best thing is they all worked hard to get where they're at."

Flores didn't make the traveling squad as a freshman, but left an impression on Gonzales during the fall of his sophomore year.

"I had a really good fall," Flores said. "I pitched really well and coach told me he wanted me to become a closer. It was something new that I'd never done. I'd actually never been out of the bullpen."

Flores has become more comfortable in his role as his career has progressed.

He joined Diefenbach and pitched out of the bullpen for the Victoria Generals of the Texas Collegiate League last summer.

"I stayed with it, worked hard and it just shows you hard work pays off," Flores said. "The main thing for a closer is to throw strikes. You just throw strikes and get some outs and try to end the game."

Gonzales considered using Diefenbach as a starter, but wanted to take advantage of his ability to pitch frequently.

Diefenbach is tied with Flores with a team-leading eight appearances.

"I guess a lot of it was my pitching coach back in the day - (the late) Pat Montgomery," Diefenbach said. "I used to throw all the time with him and it would be a daily thing. I guess it's just the way I throw. I get a little sore but other than that, I feel like I have a rubber arm and can throw all the time."

A&M-Kingsville's success this season has been built around pitching.

The Javelinas have a team ERA of 2.71 and are limiting opponents to a .230 batting average.

"The last three years pitching has been the strength of our program," Gonzales said. "All the programs who are winning at a higher level have better pitching."

Flores and Diefenbach are proud to be part of the resurgence and want it to continue the rest of the season.

"We've been coming out and throwing strikes, commanding the strike zone really well and we've got a good group of fielders behind us," Diefenbach said. "We were in the top 40 in the nation as a staff in ERA last season, and we've started off this season kind of the same."



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