EDINBURG — Another University of Texas-Pan American baseball player has been granted his release, this time with incoming freshman pitcher Evan Blakeley leaving the program before he even enrolled for classes at the Edinburg campus.

The family felt “uncomfortable” sending their son to the baseball program, Evan’s father, Larry, said. The family was concerned about the baseball program’s recent publicized troubles coupled with the sudden death of daughter Lori two years ago.
Lori died at age 19, six months after being diagnosed with cancer.

UTPA Director of Athletics Scott Street signed off on the letter of intent release form Monday, with a copy being sent to the Blakeley family home in Dallas and to the National Letter of Intent office in Birmingham, Ala.

Street checked “no release” on an earlier attempt to gain the release July 3, although he wasn’t aware of the family’s recent emotional strain with the loss of Lori.

Evan originally signed his scholarship offer with UTPA in November.

“The denial of a release for Evan from his National Letter of Intent obligations was made prior to any knowledge of your family’s tragedy,” said UTPA Vice President of Business Affairs James Langabeer in an addressed cover letter received by Larry on Monday.

The UTPA athletic department, including Street, reports directly to Langabeer.

Evan finished 8-1 on the mound this past season with a 1.86 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 49 innings pitched. He didn’t join the Dallas Highland Park baseball team until March 24 after transferring from Cistercian Preparatory School.

At least 10 baseball players — six of which were on athletic scholarships — have exited the UTPA baseball program since January.

Brady Honeycutt, Zach Smith and Ry Radermacher each left the team during the season. Standout freshmen Josh Wymer and Dominic Tognietti along with Jerrod Dugas and Jonathan Hutcherson, all four freshmen scholarship players, asked for and received their releases in late May.

Sophomore Shane Janecka, on a scholarship, and freshman walk-on Bryce Smolen departed from the program in June. Assistant coaches Justin Meccage and Andrew McGuire also resigned from their posts after the season.

Wymer, one of the Broncs’ most talented players who signed with Virginia Tech in June, was vocal about UTPA coach Willie Gawlik after receiving his release in May. Days later the university confirmed the two assistant coaches weren’t returning.

“There was a lot of conflict between our coaches and players,” Wymer told The Monitor on May 30. “There was a lot of conflict between our coaches. … In the major leagues, the manager is the first to go when a team isn’t winning.

"Whether it’s (Gawlik’s) fault or not, the program isn’t responding. You know, that tells me it’s time for a change.”

UTPA, which also must replace 10 seniors, expects to bring in between 15 and 16 players in the offseason, Gawlik said recently.

Each NCAA Division I baseball program is given 11.7 scholarships annually to divide amongst its roster.

The Broncs finished 17-39 this past season — Gawlik’s fifth at the helm of the program — but UTPA elected to bring back the coach for the final year of his contract which will pay him a base salary of $54,636.

UTPA is 99-171 under Gawlik, including a 26-114 record on the road. This past season the Broncs were 2-27 away from Edinburg Baseball Stadium.

- "Incoming freshman released by UTPA," Wade Baker, The McAllen Monitor http://www.themonitor.com/, July 17, 2007 - 11:00PM http://www.themonitor.com/sports/utpa_3842___article.html/baseball_program.html

Wade Baker covers the Broncs for The Monitor. You can reach him at (956) 683-4450.