Two batters into the bottom of the fourth inning of Game Three Saturday, the Lady Greyhounds went into their usual antagonism act from the side, razzing EHS reliever Myranda Guzman as she warmed up, with the old “Whoop!!! Whooo” routine: parodying each pitch and subsequent catcher’s return. Throughout the three-game regional quarterfinal series over the weekend, fiery catcher Ruby Castillo had led the cheering/jeering charge for a Lower Valley team that had been downright hostile.
But with the barn door creakily tardily shut only after the Edinburg horses had stampeded with a vengeance, was anyone really listening to San Benito anymore?
It was doubtful that the San Benito snipers were even paying attention to themselves, after having been absolutely dominated 16-4 in Game Three to that point. Edinburg stormed from behind Saturday with a pair of wins in smashing fashion, rebounding from a 2-0 defeat Friday to take Game Two 5-3 and then Game Three by a …well, it was a joke, Make it 19-6, with the Lady ‘Cats slamming 24 hits and catcher Castillo to boot on two separate well-timed collisions at the plate.
It was a stunning turnaround on a do-or-die doubleheader day, with EHS (30-4 now and set to face San Antonio Taft this week in the region semi-finals) reversing the intimidation factor that spelled doomed on the road Friday, erupting for 14 runs in the first two frames, and hanging the ignominious Mercy Rule on the cocky Lady ‘Hounds to close out the 5-inning action in the clincher.
Now, all softball teams carry on banter from the dugout, but most choose to direct their songs and rhymes toward their own side, firing up the girls, bolstering momentum, and generally having some fun. Not San Benny, which from the outset could be heard deriding its foes, calling them out by name, and attempting to swagger their way out of the Valley and into the Sweet 16.
And it affected the Lady Bobcats in Game One, as Joann Herrera two-hit the 31-5A runner-up for a 1-0 series lead. Adding fuel to the fire were a couple of confrontations after the first match down at San Benito, with unruly Purple fans yelling at the Edinburg contingent and telling them to, “Get out of our house!”
Fair enough, but two can play at that crapshoot, and Saturday, the home crowd at EHS was loud and proud, the Red and Blue girls responding to the challenge with their own brand of catcalls and baits.
“Pitcher’s got what?!’” yelled Claudia Salinas to start Game Three, after Sarina Rios’ two-run homer late in Game Two had clinched a tense triumph. “Pitcher’s got nuthin’!” screamed back her teammates, in a style not unlike what one might hear in call-and-response fashion at the average Black church on a sweltering Southern Sunday.
And as the day unwound, that was the main backstory. Could Herrera manage to beat the Lady Bobcats twice? She’d done that to San Antonio Southwest in the area round, taking two wins in a day to move the Lady ‘Hounds to this juncture. But it was a burning afternoon Saturday, even as a momentary zephyr of cold wind peeled down upon the field from out of a pattern of ominous clouds early in the day. It came so fast and left so swiftly, did this temperature-bender, that the packed house had to wonder if it had only imagined the strange thing after all.
After beating the Valley’s best hurler with eight hits in the early game, EHS felt like Herrera was dead meat on the hook. It also felt like it had had just about enough lip from the Lady ‘Hounds.
“We were screaming about that on the way back from San Benito last night,” said Salinas, whose base-loaded double in the first keyed a six-run uprising that knocked the visitor on its hind legs for good; EHS would add eight more in the second and that was that a wrap, save for the recordkeeping and Purple tears. “We knew they were talking a lot of stuff, it was really insane down there at San Benito. So we decided we had to come out and not be intimidated in our own park. We started to talk right back at them, and it worked out well. But notice we started really talking our stuff after we got the lead.”
It also worked out that Castillo was served a cold dish of revenge Saturday, which was almost as satisfying as the first trip to the Sweet 16 in program history. Castillo had blocked the plate with force on baserunner Myranda Hinojosa in the first, smacking the freshman pitcher/outfielder upside the head and knocking her dizzy.
In the process of obliterating Herrera with the 24-hit attack, the Lady ‘Cats also made sure to leave a calling card for the burly senior from San Benito. Salinas rambled around third on a base hit in the second, putting her shoulder down like a strong safety and bowling the much bigger Castillo over on her can to score a run.
Later, tiny Tori DeLeon followed suit, going out of her way to time the approach to the dish and delivering a vicious body block into the catcher, amid cries of delight from the gallery and a cloud of dust at the scene.
“We were intimidated Friday, you could see it in our faces,” admitted Salinas, who drove in four runs in Game Three with Hinojosa and DeLeon plating three each. The Lady ‘Cats had eight doubles while Rios (a Ruthian 6 for 11 in the series) jacked one out in each game Saturday; the second was a zinging line-drive rope just past the scoreboard in left that could have held 10 loads of laundry. “But we got together today, we got into our rhythm, and man, I got a headache from all the yelling!”
Having a one-horse outfit is always a risk in softball, as a tough three-game playoff series can wear out even the most durable hurler. Edinburg had ridden through Weslaco and Rio Grande City with its two-headed freshman monster of Sammy Arciba and “Big M” Hinojosa, while San Benito (24-7) had depended solely on Herrera.
In Game Two Hinojosa got the start and lasted three innings, leaving in favor of Arciba after the Lady ‘Cats had carved out a 3-2 advantage. In Game One, EHS had been given a solid chance to scratch in the first inning, but speedy outfielder Leeanne Hinojosa was gunned at the plate trying to score on a sacrifice fly. From there, the momentum flagged for the Lady ‘Cats and Herrera dominated the rest of the way.
But Saturday, Mariah Ozuna’s sac bunt led to an RBI single from Rios in the second to tie the game at one. Converting the scoring chance seemed to pep the girls up, and though the Lady ‘Hounds touched for the lead in the top of the second, another sweet bunt (by “Z” Borrego) preceded back-to-back two-baggers off the fence from DeLeon and Myranda Hinojosa as the home side inched in front, 3-2.
It stayed that way until the sixth, when Rios chased home Anissa Gonzalez with a towering blast, Arciba closing it out for the win.
Between games, the Lady Bobcats slugged down Gatorade and munched hungrily on Power Bars and other snacks, waiting to see if they could keep the mojo rising for the clincher. This they could and would do, in incredible fashion, batting around in each of the first two frames, crashing 11 hits off the fading Herrera.
All of a sudden, it was mighty quiet on the Lady ‘Hound side. All one could hear besides the wooden retort from hit after Lady ‘Cat hit assaulting the outfield wall was the monotonous hum of a generator trying to give power to the Greyhound TV station trucks that had come west to report the goings on.
“Incredible? No, it’s contagious!” Banda shouted during the one-sided demolition derby
And everyone contributed in the rout, as sophomore Brit Davila scored three times as courtesy runner and continued to belt out song notes with the virtuoso tones only a choir veteran can muster. Catcher Deidra Tafolla (who’d gunned down a runner trying to steal in Game Two) got three hits, with Arciba - who started the game and got return-the-favor relief aid from Myranda Hinojosa - cranking three herself.
As the blowout wore on, Salinas regaled her teammates with tales of her smash-up at home plate with the dreaded Castillo.
“I was like, ‘Boom!!!’” she laughed, acting out the KO once again, with a teammate asking her if she ever considered pulling up to avoid contact.
“Hell no, that one was MINE!” she answered with a forearm into the air, showing that after her pal Big M had gotten hammered, she’d been lying in league in the tall grass, just waiting for the opportunity to get some satisfaction.
And the paybacks were there for the program itself over the weekend, as EHS advanced into the fourth round with a formidable offensive explosion that had eluded it in Game One. In the wake of the Saturday Massacre lay the helpless San Benito group, which now understands that while yakkety-yak is all well and good, a team has to back it up all the way or face humiliation, and in this case, elimination. They’re done for 2010, bye-bye now.
“They basically ran us off the field, literally, last night,” explained Banda, who received a perfect water-cooler bath as he chatted with Valley Morning Star reporter Armando Garza after the series concluded. “There were some words exchanged. But we came out today with real intent, we wanted to show them the Bobcat Brand. The scouting reports on us, that I have heard, say that when we’re on, we’re on. And today…you could say that we were on.”
NOTES: As always, the Review Web site retells the story, in pictures. In mid-week, look online for a preview of the regional semi-final series.