UHV senior strikes blow against cancer
Feb. 24, 2018 at 10:57 p.m.
Updated Feb. 25, 2018 at 11:41 a.m.
Chase Almendarez's home run in the first game of a doubleheader against Prairie View A&M wasn't his first of the season, but it was the most special.
Almendarez's two-run shot over the left-field fence came in UHV's Strike Out Cancer game at Riverside Stadium.
Almendarez's father, Chris, threw out the ceremonial first pitch to honor Jana Almendarez, Chris' wife and Chase's mother, who died of brain cancer in May of 2016.
"It meant a lot, especially with my mom's battle," Chase Almendarez said. "This was a great way to honor her. I wasn't trying to hit it out. It just happened, and I'm glad she could see it."
Chris Almendarez drove in from Round Rock, where he is the president of the Round Rock Express, an affiliate of the Texas Rangers.
"It's actually one of my favorite things," he said. "Especially on a day like today when they were honoring my wife and kind of our story. There's a sense she's always with us, but that was a pretty neat deal."
The Jaguars were hoping to bring awareness to the Almendarezes' story and the fight against cancer before splitting their doubleheader against the Panthers.
Prairie View A&M (1-4) won the first game 7-2, and the Jaguars (3-6) bounced back to take a 7-6 victory in the second game for their first home win of the season.
"It's been very difficult," said UHV coach Terry Puhl. "Not having to go through something like that and most people don't, what he's gone through as a young man. Our hearts go out to him. He's a fine young man. He's going to do very well. It's still a very sad deal."
To honor Jana Almendarez, Chase's younger brother, Luke, who plays at Round Rock High, got involved with the Leukemia & Lymphomia Society's fundraising campaign to help provide research for blood cancers.
Luke Almendarez set a goal of $50,000, but has surpassed it and now hopes to raise $75,000 by the Friday deadline when an Austin student of the year will be named.
"By raising $50,000, my son was able to name grant in honor of my wife," Chris Almendarez said of his son, Luke, who was playing a high school game Saturday and unable to come to Riverside Stadium. "If he wins, it would be a neat deal to honor my wife. This is blood cancer, and she died of brain cancer, but cancer affects so many people, and we can use our platform to share what we've gone through and help somebody go through some tough times. It makes it all worth it."
Chris Almendarez had to return home before the second game and missed Chase's second home run of the day - another two-run blast over the left-field fence - and his third of the season.
"It's made me work even harder," Chase Almendarez, said of the loss of his mother. "It's shown me the true meaning of life. There's a lot to overcome. It's helped me to overcome. Coming to Victoria (from Eastfield College) was a great thing. Coach Puhl and all my teammates have done a great job in just healing me during this time."
The Jaguars struggled offensively in the first game, getting only five hits and their only runs coming on Almendarez's home run.
They had 13 hits in the second game, including Almendarez's two-run homer, two doubles by Maxwell Sheldon and one each by Chase Tamez and Josh Fonseca.
"It will take some time," said Chase Almendarez, one of six seniors on the roster. "We have some young hitters. It's just getting those guys some experience and we'll be fine. I think the few seniors like me, (Ross) Bludau, and Tamez have done a great job in leading these guys in the right direction."
UHV saw a six-run advantage sink to a run, but Victoria West graduate Jonathan Jimenez preserved the lead with three innings of scoreless relief for his second save.
"He's got that type of an arm," Puhl said of Jimenez. "He's got a great arm. We will make that decision soon whether he goes into the rotation or not. At this time, we've needed that valuable arm in more games than just the first three innings. But what we saw today was pretty impressive."
The most satisfying moment of the day came in the sixth inning of the first game when Chase Almendarez created a timeless memory to savor with his father.
"Mom was up there pulling for him," Puhl said. "It was pretty neat."
PVAM 002 212 0 - 7 9 1
UHV 000 002 0 - 2 5 2
Darrien Williams, Cristian Cooper (7) and Tyler Gordon. Ross Bludau, Jacob Atkinson (5), Gustavo Valdes (6), Mason Hulett (7) and Chase Almendarez, Garrett Gray-Mathis (5). W: Williams (1-0). L: Bludau (0-1). Highlights: (PVAM) Clavin Rucker 2-for-2, 2 R, RBI; Ezekiel Bear 1-for-4, 2-run HR; Jalyn Baker 1-for-4, 2-run HR; Corbin Jamison 2-for-3, R, SB. (UHV) Chase Almendarez 1-for-3, 2-run HR; Zak Vela 1-for-3, 2B.
PVAM 100 230 000 - 6 14 1
UHV 313 000 00x - 7 13 0
Caleb Rozypal, Nic Campos (3) and Tyler Durham, Tyler Gordon (4). Tanner Knowles, Nathaniel Pena (5), Jonathan Jimenez (7) and Maxwell Shelton. W: Pena (2-1). L: Rozypal (0-2). S: Jimenez 2. Highlights: (PVAM) Demarie Smith 3-for-5, R; Tracy Warren 3-for-5; Corbin Jamison 1-for-2, 2 RBIs. (UHV) Jimenez 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO; Chase Almendarez 2-for-4, 2-run HR; Josh Fonseca 2-for-4, R, RBI; Sheldon 2-for-4, 2 2B, 2 R, RBI; Nate Letien 2-for-4, RBI. Records: PVAM 1-4; UHV 3-6.