MISSION, Texas (ValleyCentral) — The Pioneer baseball team made the deepest run of any Valley team in the 2022 playoffs.

The Diamondbacks reached the Region IV-5A finals, one step short of the state tournament. While last year’s team featured talented players who have moved on to play collegiately, the Diamondbacks have more than a handful of key returners, including senior infielder Santiago Ortiz.

“If anything, I expect us to do better,” Ortiz said. “Our goal last year was to get that state championship and get that ring.”

The Diamondbacks will be led by a new head coach, Adrian Leal, who previously coached at Rowe.

Leal is impressed by the dedication and desire the team has shown.

“They’re very experienced players, ” Leal said. “They expect great things and I expect great things from them.”

The Diamondbacks have taken a liking to playing under Leal’s guidance.

“It’s been awesome,” said senior David Benitez. “He’s a great coach. More than coach, like a friend for us.”

“Since he was new, we had to bond with him,” added junior Rene Vela. “But now our connection is better.”

Leal’s Diamondbacks will open their season on Feb. 20 against La Joya.