For those who saw it, it will go down as one of the most amazing miracles in school history, a comeback wrapped inside of a disaster, and sprinkled with a second improbably marvelous comeback. It was too crazy for words, but one must attempt to describe the 12-11 bi-district baseball stunner.
To start with, let it be said that though the Edinburg Bobcats came into Friday’s action down one game to none so with their backs against the proverbial wall, they did not perform like a baseball team itching for a second-round playoff chance against the powerful McAllen Bulldogs. For five-plus innings they lagged behind Weslaco at home, falling behind 7-0 heading into the bottom of the sixth. After ace Lee Rios had been tagged for nine hits and the outfield defense continued to struggle to locate flies, it looked like curtains for the ‘Cats, after they had been similarly outplayed by an underdog Panther group in Game One, losing 6-2 and making just four hits.
But before the inning that will go down in city history as a truly phenomenal explosion, Coach Robert Valdez read his team the riot act, and how.
“Are you going to fold up and quit?” he hollered at the downtrodden ‘Cats. “We have got a fight still left out here! This is Bobcat Tradition we’re talking about and some of you are already folding…what are you going to do?”
Well, how about 10 runs in an eight-hit extravaganza, punctuated by a three-run triple from Sammy Alvarado and a gargantuan home run from Rios, with his brother Hector watching from the stands along with a host of Bobcat baseball alums? Far from folding, EHS surged into a 10-7 lead, and the celebration was electric and immense.
The only problem? Weslaco was not ready to go yet. The visitor responded with four runs of its own in the top of the seventh to pepper relievers J.J. Balderas and Alvarado, silencing the raucous home crowd for an 11-10 advantage.
Another miracle lay in wait, however, as Weslaco then bungled two ground balls and senior Christian Alvarado came up large with a bouncing single past a drawn-in infield to plate the winning run and end the marathon thriller. Senior Jeremy Salinas, who crossed the plate to win it, immediately disappeared under a sea of raging Bobcats.
With their season seemingly in the canal, the ‘Cats had rallied for win No. 20 on the year, forcing a third and deciding game Saturday in Weslaco. The hard-raging coach recognized the monumental accomplishment his team had pulled off against all odds.
“It was an ugly win but we’ll take it,” said a sweat-soaked Valdez after his kids had answered the sixth-inning question about their guts with a decidedly declaration. “These seniors have played with heart and soul all year long, there is a lot of tradition here and it showed tonight by the way the kids battled back.”
Christian Alvarado, who had seen one Weslaco hit bounce off him and three more sail past to the fence in left, had also smashed into the fence trying to run one down in the middle innings. But the lanky lefty swinger redeemed himself in the clutch with a tying single in the telltale sixth and then the game-winner an inning hence. Beside himself with joy after the unreal comeback after the unreal comeback, he took time out to comment.
“Get the popcorn ready!” he screamed, referencing Game Three to come as the entertaining night of Game Two came to a weary close.
Weslaco came into the series with a middling record as the third-place team from District 32-5A, but played like a champ Thursday, beating EHS 6-2 behind a nice effort from right-hander Tim Serna, who would also figure prominently in Game Two. The Bobcats were unable to get much going on offense and starter Sammy Alvarado had been uncharacteristically wild, walking a season-high seven batters.
Faced with elimination, Valdez sent Rios out to the hill to stop the Panther charge. Unfortunately, he was not on, and surrendered a number of ringing base hits, including four doubles and two triples. Weslaco scored in four of the first five innings while the Bobcats bobbled balls in the outfield, missed cutoff men, and generally played poorly.
Every time the offense started to get going, Weslaco had the answer in support of starter Marcus Mendiola. Down 3-0 in the third, there were two on with one out before Sammy Alvarado popped to second and Christian Alvarado grounded out.
After Weslaco made it 4-0, EHS came to hit in the fourth and got two hits after the Panthers turned a double play, with Balderas flying to right to end the threat.
Balderas came on for Rios in the fifth and struck out two of the three hitters he faced to put out the fire, then allowed two in the sixth to make it 7-0, with an awfully quiet audience looking on.
But then Valdez issued his challenge to the team, and the results were more than even he could have hoped for. Derrick Soza walked to start what would end up being a 40-minute at-bat and after catcher Aldo Zamora fanned, the ‘Cats came up with three straight singles off a tiring Mendiola. The second came from Carlos Pena, the very valuable first baseman, who went 3 for 4 Friday and made two super plays at the bag. When soph Ricky Vazquez reached on an E6 it was 7-3 Weslaco but with EHS brewing a hurricane. Serna advanced to the mound in place of Mendiola, seeking to stymie the Bobcats for the second night in a row. Uh-uh.
Salinas walked to load ‘em up and Sammy Alvarado slammed a ball the opposite way to the fence in left-center, scoring three runs. Christian A. followed with a hit for the tie. Soza singled and then Zamora was next, and he launched a double chasing Alvarado and Soza home for a 9-7 margin amid delirium in the dugout. He was thrown out at third on the play but Rios came up and crushed a terrific clout that cleared the left-center field fence deep into the Valley night.
As stated, though, Weslaco answered with four in the seventh, getting three hits, a walk, and a hit batsmen to storm from behind when Sammy Alvarado gave up a bases-loaded triple not unlike the one he had contributed an inning earlier.
So it was 11-10 going into the denouement, with Edinburg desperately donning the rally caps for one last chance. Balderas reached on an E5 and Vazquez bunted him over. Salinas walked after Balderas went to third on a passed ball and then Sammy Alvarado hit a bouncer to short. It looked like a possible game-ending double play until Panther shortstop Aaron Burcia fumbled it away, with two runs scoring.
Up stepped Alvarado, who slapped one past the second baseman, leading to the second eruption of joy in two innings, this one for the final count of 12-11.
NOTES: Along with Hector Rios and Andre Cordova, both playing at Texas A&M-International in Laredo, former Bobcat catcher Spanky Rodriguez and IF-OF David Kaz were in attendance Friday. Kaz is red-shirting at Ranger College this season.
EHS took a 4-run lead early only to see Weslaco storm back to take the deciding game Saturday, 8-6.