In hindsight it had all the makings of an Upset Special. The seemingly endless rain had lulled everyone into a sort of vertigo, with people having to remind themselves to get ready for games that they imagined might never come. The girls didn’t know until late in the day Thursday that for once all week, there would be softball. So when they took the field against an upstart Econ team itching to show something after a recent swoon, the Lady Bobcats were sitting ducks for a shot of reality.
Add in the fact that several starters were missing or out due to various troubles ranging from oral surgery to the sniffles, and it was no wonder the Lady Jags were right in there after four, with a 1-1 tie.
But thanks to some fabulous Long Ball, EHS survived the upset scare, as the home side smacked three home runs in the late stages, including two in the same inning, to win 12-2. The final score was not indicative of the solid effort produced by Lonnie Garza’s Orange, who dropped to 1-10 in 31-5A while the Lady ‘Cats rose to 9-2. They were sharp early, played tight defense, and appeared to have a shot a win that would have roiled the top of the league heap beyond recognition heading into the last week of the regular season.
As it was, Mariah Ozuna had other ideas. Her leadoff shot over the wall in left-center was her third homer of the season, and gave the team a 4-1 advantage in the fourth, an inning after Victoria Ponce had driven home two with a clutch two-out double. Sophomore Anissa Gonzalez connected later in the frame for her third tater of the year, and Sarina Rios ended the hit parade with her second bomb of 2010 in the sixth as EHS pulled away.
The victory for a sluggish squad was vital, with a match against Pharr North to follow the next day as the truncated schedule tries to regain normal form. This week it’s Harlingen South and Edinburg North for the team seeking to win a league title.
Rios got the win with a gutty pitching performance, with relief help from Sammy Arciba and Myranda Hinojosa, and the Lady Bobcats had dodged a bullet.
Assistant coach Sonny Villarreal had lectured the team midway through, saying that they were in the dugout talking about everything but the game. And head man Jesse Banda admitted that the weather had thrown his girls for a loop.
“We finally snapped out of it today,” he said. “We haven’t even hit since Friday and today we found out we were going to play way late. We didn’t have our uniforms, they had to go home and get them.”
The usually vocal EHS group was silent in the early stages Thursday; it seemed that the only kid ready to work was senior Claudia Salinas, who kept up a steady stream of chatter.
“Here we go, give it a ride, kid!” she hollered, just before Ozuna smacked one out of the yard. Ozuna and Gonzalez each worked Econ hurler Kayla Silva deep into the count with a patient approach, fouling off a series of pitches before going deep.
“They hung in there on the counts and got good pitches to hit,” said Banda of his home-run heroes. “This game has to be a wakeup call for us.”
Ozuna, who has been outstanding in district play after a slow start, noted that though she has clobbered three round-trippers, she never looks for the from-the-heels swing.
“It just happened, I was not expecting it,” she commented, as a teammate walked by and laughed, ‘She’s lying!’ “I just wanted to make the right contact, it was a great pitch to hit. I knew I had to do something because we just weren’t very into it at that point.”
Provided the team could take care of a suddenly average Pharr North unit Friday, the stage was set for rematches this week versus the teams that have beaten the Lady ‘Cats earlier in the league slate. EHS came into the game ranked fifth in the Valley with Edinburg North fourth and Harlingen South third, as 31-5A softball has continued the awesome pace set by the loop’s football teams in the fall and continued by the league’s girls’ hoops outfits in the winter.
NOTES: Alas, the rollercoaster swooped downward for EHS as it lost to the Lady Raiders, 6-4, meaning that if all holds as planned, the Lady ‘Cats will (9-3) be a game down heading into the finale with North. The Lady Coogs (9-2) were rained out in their rematch with Harlingen South and faced the daunting task this week of three games in five days, with South Monday and P-SJ-A Memorial the next night, both on the road, before returning home for the EHS action Friday.