by Stephen Morales (@grecomeco23)
East Los Angeles College outfielder/pitcher Steven Villagran recently signed his scholarship offer to the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, TX to play for the Cardinals next season. The Cardinals were 9-7 in the Covid-19 shortened season and Villagran provides another solid pitcher to their rotation and a solid bat to their lineup. Incarnate Word is a member of the NCAA Division-1's Southland Conference.
When combining athletics and academics, Incarnate Word was the perfect choice for the Husky sophomore. "I decided on Incarnate Word because this was going to put me in a great spot for my future," says Villagran. "They gave me a really great offer; academically, they have my major and they also have a master's program for my major. They also play good competition so it's only going to get me better."
The 6'0 right hander from San Fernando High School certainly made his mark during his time at ELAC. As a freshman in 2019, Villagran hit .313 with a home run and 28 runs batted in. On the mound, he struck out 54 batters in 62.2 innings of work and recorded four wins. As the 2020 season began, Villagran was off to a great start at the plate and on the mound: in his first three games, he rapped nine hits - including a home run - along with recording six strikeouts in his first start. Unfortunately, a hamstring injury sidelined him for the next eight games (and the team's success suffered while he was out). Once his hamstring healed, Villagran began progressing towards a complete return on the mound while his hitting came back rather quickly, recording 11 hits in his 8 games back. "As I returned from my hamstring injury, I was still optimistic about the rest of the year," said Villagran. "I was eager to get back on the field and contribute to the team. I was doing little things to keep my rhythm - I was just ready to contribute."
In short, the multifaceted sophomore seemed poised for a strong sophomore campaign until the COVID-19 shutdown.
"Prior to the shutdown I think we were just coming off a big losing streak," Villagran commented. "We knew we were better than what our record showed - we just couldn't finish a game off. So, I believe we were finally putting it together to get more wins. Then Covid hit us and never gave us that chance."
While missing being out on the ballfield, Villagran has been staying busy during the shutdown. "I'm fortunate enough to have the tools to be able to hit and throw daily," he says. "I do some home workouts. I try to stay as active as possible so when I do go back to school it would seem as if I didn't miss a beat."
Villagran's presence on the ELAC baseball team was summed up by longtime Huskies head coach James Hines:
"Steven is an unbelievable individual. His dedication, work ethic, and character are unmatched by any student-athlete that has come through our program. He has always outworked everyone, always found a reason to be there even when sick or injured, and we never had worry about what he was doing away from the field because he was either doing some extra workout, school work, or actually working at his job. Everything that Steven gets out of life he deserves, a lot of that is because of the personal sacrifice he makes to focus on his goals."
While looking forward to his next chapter at Incarnate Word, the ELAC graduate will remember his time at East LA fondly. "What I will remember about my time at ELAC is the nonstop grind," Villigran remarks. "We would try to improve as a team every day. It was a good atmosphere to play in, it was a fun time."
As for that next chapter, Villagran is already thinking ahead to Incarnate Word and beyond. "I'm hoping I am able to improve so much that it gives me a shot at being drafted. My goal is to be drafted in the first round. While I am at Incarnate Word, I will be studying Accounting. If baseball doesn't work out, then I plan on becoming a CPA (Certified Public Accountant)."
Huskies Athletics and the ELAC community wishes Mr. Villagran all the best in the next chapter of his journey at Incarnate Word. "Once a Husky, always a Husky".