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High School Baseball: Rios' swing is back for Eagles

Daily Pilot High School Athlete of the Week

Rios has turned it on since an early-season slump. Senior is 19 for 44 in Estancia's last 12 games.

April 13, 2013|By David Carrillo PeƱaloza
(SCOTT SMELTZER…)

Tyler Rios sat in the visitor's dugout at Estancia High on Thursday and looked back at his time with the Eagles.

The senior smiled and shook his head at the same time.

"It's gone by real fast, super fast," Rios said of his four seasons with the baseball team. "I could remember my freshman year like it was [yesterday]."

Rios has started at shortstop for Estancia since he showed up at the school. At age 14, he was that talented and ready for varsity.

Not much has changed in terms of his height or weight. Over the years, Rios grew a couple of inches and gained 15 pounds.

The 5-foot-7, 155-pounder can now grow facial hair. Rios is more proud of how the Eagles' program has grown since his arrival.

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As a freshman, he helped the Eagles win their first league title since 1991 and qualify for the CIF Southern Section playoffs for the first time since 1994. As a sophomore, he led the Eagles back to the postseason and then their first playoff victory since 1992.

Estancia returned to the playoffs last season during Rios' junior year, only to lose in the first round. Before he graduates from Estancia, Rios said he plans to do whatever it takes to get the program a first-round playoff win.

During Estancia's alumni game in February, right before the season, Rios sat in the visitor's dugout and talked to former players. His question to them was simple: When was the last time Estancia won a first-round playoff game?

"I think it was in the '80s maybe," one player told Rios, before another player said, "Maybe '79."

However long it's been, Rios came away knowing it's been a very long time.

Changing that is a top priority for Rios. He's not satisfied with the Eagles' 5-3 Division IV wild-card win against Anaheim from two years ago that ended a 19-year playoff winless drought.

The start to his final season didn't begin on the right note.

Rios said he began the year hitless in his first 20 at-bats. He really didn't. It just felt that way.

Through the first five games, Rios started two for 17. Yes, he was in a major slump.

"It was ridiculous. It was frustrating," Rios said. "I knew that I had the most experience on the team."

Rios also knew he was trying to do too much at the plate. His coach, Nate Goellrich, didn't need to tell him.

Goellrich saw that Rios was trying to carry the team on his shoulders.

"I think he's figured out now that we have a pretty good team," Goellrich said. "He's a great leader for us."

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