By Kevin Posival
Killeen Daily Herald
SALADO – Moving boxes lined the hallways of Salado High School, waiting on transition from one chapter of school history to another. Sam VanHoozer, himself in a transitional phase, made the step toward his next chapter Tuesday: baseball at Mary Hardin-Baylor.
"It feels good. It's just a continuous plan," VanHoozer said about his commitment to play for the Crusaders next year. "I don't have hang the glove up yet."
VanHoozer attended the Temple College tryouts just days removed from the Eagles' Class 2A state championship. UMHB, though, took more notice of the Salado lefty than the host school and others attending the tryouts took even more notice.
"Everyone was looking at me because they knew we had won state," VanHoozer said. "Everybody else had been off for like three or four weeks. I was just off a couple of days."
With the Eagles' 12-8 win over Corsicana Mildred in the title game, the composite dream of nine seniors was realized as was the reality they had played their final game together in a Salado baseball uniform.
"I was (looking forward to playing college baseball), but I had to finish my high school career first," VanHoozer said. "I gave my whole effort and whatever would come to me would come."
After being torched and then pulled in the first inning of Salado's second game against Odem in the regional semifinals, VanHoozer pitched a three-hit shutout in Game 2 of the regional final series against No. 4 Lexington to get the Eagles into the state tournament.
VanHoozer allowed four runs on six hits in the first four innings of the championship game and earned the win.
"I'm going to get hit off of in college, no matter what, I know that," VanHoozer said. "I bounced back from Odem (in the Lexington series). It was a good recovery."
VanHoozer, who finished his senior season with a 10-3 record, a low 2.22 ERA and struck out nearly 80 this season, said he's going to strive to improve where he can when gets into the UMHB system.
"I'll have to step it up a little bit. They have guys there that have played several years and they've earned their spots," VanHoozer said. "I've to got to earn my spot.
"I'm going to have my own pitching coach working with me every day and I'll have my own workout. I'd love to start for them, but I'm just happy to be on the team and being able to say I play college baseball."
UMHB posted a 28-12 record last season and finished 14-7 in the American Southwest Conference West Division. The Crusader won a share of the West Division title for the first time in school history and advanced to the ASC Championship tournament for the second straight year.
"The main thing is he gets the chance to go to school, get his education and do what he loves – play baseball," said Salado coach Melvin Bates. "I don't know what it's going to do for the (Salado) program, but for myself, I'll enjoy it a lot more because he's close and we can go see him play."
VanHoozer joins Harker Heights' David Kipp and Cody Dunn at UMHB in the fall.
Contact Kevin Posival at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7562.