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Angelina College sports shutdown puts Bryan-College Station athletes' careers in flux

Angelina College sports shutdown puts Bryan-College Station athletes' careers in flux

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Former Bryan softball players, Brenda Sanchez and Micah Ruiz, and A&M Consolidated baseball player Connor Kaiser should be gearing up for their freshman and sophomore seasons at Angelina College.

Two weeks ago, Angelina College, a National Junior College Ahtletic Association Region XIV school, followed Lee College’s lead and canceled all sports for the 2020-21 school year.

With the news coming around the typical time for moving day and new class schedules, the former Bryan-College Station athletes had one thing on their minds — “Is this the end of my collegiate career?”

The coronavirus has continued to shift the world of sports, and college programs have started to reevaluate their plans for starting in the fall. Some conferences, like the Big Ten and Pac-12, have gone to a conference-only fall format. The Southeastern Conference is taking a wait-and-see approach, and Ivy League schools have moved their fall sports to the spring. Although Sanchez, a freshman at Angelina, Ruiz and Kaiser’s 2020 seasons were affected by the coronavirus, Angelina and Lee are the first colleges to make a decision on the spring seasons.

The decision wipes out any chance for athletes to play this school year and puts them back into the recruiting process, if they choose to continue playing their sport. Angelina president Dr. Michael Simon said the school is working on allocating funds for athletes on scholarships who want to continue their education at Angelina.

Bryan head softball coach Enrique Luna said after hearing the news, Ruiz decided to step away from softball and continue her education at Blinn College in the fall.

Meanwhile, Sanchez and Kaiser have gone into overdrive trying to find another home to continue their playing careers, even reaching out to their former coaches for advice and support in their next step.

Similar to Ruiz, Kaiser’s career at Angelina ended before it even started. Kaiser signed with the Roadrunners in November after going to a recruiting camp that summer and becoming interested in the program. Kaiser said after learning about the cancellation in a Zoom call with the team, he went to Consol head coach Ryan Lennerton for help finding another program.

“My initial thoughts probably were that my college career might be over,” Kaiser said. “I was thinking that my baseball career was over and I would have to go be a regular student somewhere. Luckily, Coach Lennerton really helped me out and was able to talk to Galveston coaches and get them in contact with me, and we went from there.”

On July 22, Kaiser officially announced his commitment to Galveston College on Twitter. Kaiser said his main focus was to continue playing baseball, and after talking with Galveston coaches, he went with his gut and chose the Whitecaps.

“Due to Angelina College cancelling its 2020-2021 season, I’m excited to announce that I will be committing to Galveston College! Go Whitecaps!” the tweet read.

Galveston will follow the NJCAA’s plan to move the majority of fall competition to the spring semester, with the spring sports seasons remaining intact.

Luna said it was disappointing to hear that his former players’ careers, as well as those of other athletes, were put on hold.

“It’s not only Brenda and Micah but all the kids and all the sports that were really looking forward to that opportunity, to not only play but attend school on scholarship,” Luna said. “...It is disappointing because I think both of them could have been a real force for the program this year, and I think they really would have helped them.”

Sanchez, who graduated from Bryan in 2019, was able to get through two conference series before the season was shut down in March. Sanchez signed with Angelina during the fall of her senior year, but didn’t plan on playing in college before that year. With the encouragement of former teammate Rachel Agnello, Sanchez earned a full scholarship at Angelina and was able to help her family financially.

“I didn’t expect COVID to affect my [sophomore] season like that,” Sanchez said. “I understand why they canceled it when the first outbreak occurred [in March], but when they canceled all sports at Angelina, not only for the fall, but for this spring as well, I was in shock. I didn’t know what to say.”

Sanchez and Luna have searched for potential landing spots for the former All-Brazos Valley catcher the past few weeks, sending emails and making phone calls to different colleges. While some colleges had full rosters and no scholarship money, Sanchez said all the coaches were nice and wanted to help however they could. Sanchez said she hasn’t picked a school yet, but she’s looking at Northwestern Oklahoma State, Kansas Wesleyan, Paris JC and University of Houston-Victoria.

NOTES — Former A&M Consolidated defensive specialist Morgan Cole plays volleyball for Lee College. Cole would have played her sophomore season this fall. ... Sanchez hit .350 with four doubles, a triple and a home run in 16 games in 2020 and threw out half of runners attempting to steal.

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