orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

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May 13, 2014

Cards always in the ‘hunt’ with catcher Uzzle

BRIDGE CITY — When the Bridge City Cardinal baseball team takes the field, they are always literally in the “Hunt” for a victory.

Especially with the services of senior catcher Hunter Uzzle.

Uzzle has been on the varsity since a freshman and he’s seen his share of big battles over the years.

There will be a big one Wednesday, Thursday and Friday when the Cardinals (25-3) tangle with the Huffman Falcons (22-4) in the 3A Region III quarterfinals. Game One is tonight at 7 p.m. at Nederland High School. Game Two is Friday at 7 p.m. at San Jacinto Junior College. Game Three, if necessary, will be Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Baytown Sterling High School.

“As a senior now, all I want to do is win and advance,” said Uzzle. “Every game, every out, every at-bat, they’re all so meaningful now. Huffman will be a strong test for us and should be a good series. A couple years ago, they had us down 5-0 and we came back to beat them. Last year, we were up 4-0 and they came back to beat us. There is a lot of history there and both teams are pretty good and here we meet again.”

One thing for sure, Uzzle has met the challenge of being the Cardinals’ plate general head-on. It’s something he takes a lot of pride in.

“It’s a great position to play because you can see everything that’s going on from back there,” said Uzzle, who caught junior pitcher Chase Shugart’s complete-game no-hitter in BC’s 9-0 win over Sweeny in the area round. “You have to make some fast decisions at times back there. I’m just grateful that my teammates, especially the pitchers, have confidence in me back there. The coaches also give me the green light to make calls and that means so much.”

Cardinal coach Chad Landry knows he has a gem in the backstop.

“Hunter is just a tremendous asset for us across the board,” said Landry. “You can almost say he’s a member of our coaching staff, he’s that good with the decisions he makes. He’s good with the bat. He’s an excellent baserunner. He just kinda sets the tone for us all the way around.”

Uzzle is definitely enjoying the ride the Cardinals are on. After all, the Redbirds won yet another District 21-3A crown with a near flawless 11-1 record. They’ve also won three playoff games by a combined score of 31-4. Bridge City will be entering its 16th year as a regional quarterfinalist.

“It’s been a great run and I’m so fortunate to play for a great program and you couldn’t ask for better teammates,” said Uzzle. “We’ve put a lot of effort into where we’re at right now. Coach Landry and the coaches have really been great through the years. It’s a tradition we feel we have to uphold and we’ve had so much fun doing it. Coach Landry likes to mess with us a bunch, he’s just like a kid when he gets excited. He knows what it’s all about because he played so well in his playing days.”

In his first couple years, Uzzle spent time learning from former catching standout Matt Menard, now at Baylor, and shortstop Zach Smith.

“I kinda grew up under their wings,” said Uzzle. “Matt was a great athlete and his work ethic was amazing. Smith, he was truly amazing with his work habits. He was always working his tail off. They were great examples for me.”

Landry echoed the same sentiments.

“Hunter learned a lot from those guys,” said Landry. “Now he’s one those guys and he leads vocally and by his efforts on the field. He’s just a super all-around kid. Anyway you slice it, he’s just a great person to have on any team.”

Now Uzzle is one of those guys.

“I do whatever I can to get the guys motivated, especially the younger ones,” said Uzzle. “I like to make the JV guys feel like they’re just as important as the ones on varsity. As seniors, we want to be positive influences not only on the field but off too.”

Uzzle and the Cardinals are certainly ready for the three-game set with the Falcons.

“The game of baseball can be cruel at times, especially in those one-game deals and you have a bad game,” said Uzzle. “A series is good, because usually the better overall teams win those.”

After he graduates from his great run at BC, Uzzle will continue to hone his talents at Panola Junior College.

“I’m looking forward to the whole college experience,” said Uzzle. “I’ve got several friends that I played with and against that are there and are going there. The coaching staff is really good and so is the program.”

First things first, Uzzle is chomping at the bit to continue his run in a Cardinal uniform.

“These are memories that will last a lifetime, playing with your high school buddies,” said Uzzle. “These are the guys I grew up with and played with my entire life. You just never forget those guys. They are like my family. We just want to keep this thing rolling and hope it never ends.”

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