It was tougher than expected, but the Bobcats came through in the clutch, fighting from behind to nip Brownsville Hanna, 8-7 Saturday, to advance to the area round of the playoffs against Laredo United.
Down a game after being shut out 1-0 Thursday, the ‘Cats won two in a row against the fourth-place team from District 32-5A. The Eagles were on a roll entering the series, and it took everything EHS had to avoid the first-round upset.
Saturday the Bobcats (24-8) rallied in their final at-bat to come from behind, as Andrew Arteaga drove in two runs to win the ball game and the series. The ‘Cats were ahead 4-1 early and 5-3 heading into the seventh, but Hanna struck for four off hurler Arteaga to lead, 7-5. But after a Joe Munoz double and a pair of hit batsmen, Luis Alanis scored on a passed ball to make it 7-6.
Then Arteaga, a probable Valley MVP candidate this year, did his thing, redeeming himself in a big way. He is quite simply an amazing hitter, with good pop, quick hands, and the patience to wait for his pitch.
Friday's redemption had started quickly, as the Bobcats scored in each of the first four frames, with senior Aretaga slamming a pair of run-scoring doubles. Unlike in Thursday's 1-0 loss in Brownsville, the ‘Cats got some timely hits to amass a 7-0 lead after four.
They benefited from some wild defense from the Eagles and three bases on balls in the first inning. Hanna had battery trouble all night, surrendering three passed balls and committing two wild pitches. That meant that though Edinburg managed only six hits (Arteaga ended 3 for 3 with a walk, and again, when he hits the ball he simply overwhelms it, shooting missiles all over the field), it was able to make those count.
Meanwhile, Sammy Alvarado was super, going the distance at home, allowing six hits and most importantly, no walks. He struck out eight with a dynamite curve and a popping fastball that seemed to have the Eagle hitters off balance consistently.
After Thursday's shocker, the Bobcats were intense and yet loose at the same time, having a blast in the dugout with loud banter and playing like the No. 3 team in the Valley. Friday they got solid defense most of the way, outside of two late infield errors that led to the only Hanna marker, in the sixth. They turned a sweet double play, 6-4-3, and were never truly threatened after the early offensive explosion.
The fire was illustrated well in the third when courtesy runner Ivan Herrera barreled into the catcher at home, while attempting to score on a wild pitch. He was seemingly out dead to rights, but muscled the ball out of the backstop's grasp and banged the plate for the third run amid an approving road from his teammates.
THE AREA ROUND
While the region is still staggered by the upset of state power Sharyland in bi-district by Laredo United, a closer look reveals that the Longhorns are not just a spoiler. That club would have won 29-5A but ended up having to forfeit a ton of games, meaning we are looking at an outfit with more than 20 wins, and some impressive statistics to boot.
The team hits .385, slugs an amazing .570 (with 13 home runs and 81 extra-base hits), with a sparkling aggregate ERA of 1.97.
Coach J.J. Gomez' group has got five kids at or over .400, for a heavy-hitting lineup of guys that can also run (61 steals as a team.) keep an eye on senior Homero Ortiz (three homers, 8-1, 1.54 on the mound) and senior Andres Aguilar (.481 average, 8-0, 1.96 on the hill).
If the Bobcats should get past United, chances are the Weslaco Panthers will be waiting. Eddie Serna's club has quietly carved out a 23-6 record this season, and faces an Eagle Pass Winn team in area that will be a decided underdog. Down the road, Corpus Christi Carroll, the defending state champ and a team that defeated EHS 3-1 in the Sharyland Tournament in March, is the odds-on favorite to come out of the other bracket into the regional final for round four.