Editor's note: This story has been changed from its original form to correct incorrect information about the last Division I championship at UT-Rio Grande Valley. Its last baseball championship came in 1955.
After a pair of successful seasons at Wharton County Junior College, Brazoswood graduate Deryk Serbantez is ready to show his skills at the Division I level.
Serbantez recently signed to play baseball at the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg. He is preparing for the move up by spending the summer playing for the Victoria Generals in the Texas Collegiate League, who primarily are using him as a pitcher.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, the University of New Orleans, Texas A&M-Kingsville and St. Edwards in Austin were among the schools impressed with his play at Wharton and tried to recruit him.
“Those were the main ones. There were a few other schools who showed interest but I had to decide and it was time,” Serbantez said. “UTRGV came out to one of my game,s and sure enough, I went to the campus the next day and committed right there.”
Serbantez has relatives who live in the Valley. Combined with the Vaqueros’ increasingly strong baseball program, the decision is a comfortable one for the rising junior.
“They are a winning program; they just won their conference,” Serbantez said. “They changed the whole program over the last couple of years with the new staff. So I am excited to go in and see what they got.”
The time he spends on the mound this summer will be good preparation for the 5-foot-8, 200-pounder, based on what Rio Grande Valley’s coaching staff has told him, he said.
“Right now they want to see if I can be a weekend starter pitchingwise,” he said. “In the fall, I will be getting my at-bats, and if they still want me to hit in the spring, I will be more of a DH. But I do think that pitching is going to play a big role and I am excited about that.”
Rio Grande Valley finished in a three-way tie atop the Western Athletic Conference standings last season, sharing the conference crown with California Baptist and New Mexico State, who all finished 19-8 in the WAC.
It was the first Division I baseball title since 1955 for the school previously known as Pan American University and UT-Pan American.
Serbantez believes he has the talent to compete at the Division I level and just needed the opportunity given to him at Wharton County Junior College to show it.
“To be honest, I don’t think I surprised myself at all because I knew what I was capable of,” Serbantez said. “All I needed to do was to go wherever I was going to go and play my game. The rest I just left it in God’s hands and things will work out.”
His faith in himself could be seen in his numbers as a sophomore last season.
Serbantez batted .320 with four home runs, 12 doubles, 24 RBIs and 25 runs scored for Wharton. He also showed his versatility on the mound, compiling a 3-2 record with 41 strikeouts and two saves.
Though Serbantez learned quite a few things while at the Wharton County school for the past two seasons, for him it was more about his special teammates.
“To me it was the brotherhood. If you can get that brotherhood with your teammates, you will do some good things,” he said. “That was probably the biggest thing for me at Wharton and now hopefully I will be doing that as well at RGV. I am ready to meet new people and see what happens for the next two years.”