By Alex Byington
Killeen Daily Herald
Jose Hernandez knew his future could hinge on a strong showing against Copperas Cove.
And with Texas College coach Freddy Rodriguez watching from the stands, the Ellison senior came through in spades, finishing 3-for-4 with a double, an RBI single and a pair of stolen bases in a 4-2 road victory.
"I knew (Rodriguez) was going to come out there that day, so I really tried to focus and hit the ball off of Cove," Hernandez said. "I was just trying to incorporate everything I could do, try to impress him a little bit and just go out there and have fun."
It was that all-around performance that solidified Hernandez as a legitimate college prospect for Rodriguez, a former Eagle baseball alum himself (1993) that is making recruiting the Central Texas area a priority for his NAIA program in Tyler.
The pair made their union official Monday afternoon when Hernandez signed with Texas College in a ceremony in the Ellison auditorium. Hernandez joins Eagles teammate D.J. Fisher, who signed with the Steers on April 12, the same day of the Cove game.
"It feels good, I feel accomplished," he said. "It's something I've been dreaming about since I was a kid, and I feel really good about myself."
Batting out of the No. 2 spot in the lineup, Hernandez finished third on the team in batting average (.372), second in hits (35), runs scored (26) and stolen bases (12) to go along with a team-high 23 sacrifices.
"With his speed, he has a chance to get on base any time he puts it in play," first-year Ellison coach Kyle Allred said. "But it's pivotal in small ball that the No. 2 hitter be somebody that the other team has to respect as someone that can put the ball down (on a bunt) and hit the ball, and he did both well this year."
When asked about what sold him on Texas College, Hernandez noted the connections with Rodriguez and Fisher.
"When I went on the visit, it felt like home. (Rodriguez is) from here, he walked the same halls I did, and it's like a family," he said. "Basically, I went down there and everything felt great. It was a nice college, and then (to be) roommates with D.J. would be a fun four years of my life."