It wasn’t quite the first inning of the Harlingen game, as far as time served, but close enough. And it actually yielded more blood.

During Thursday’s 18-1 obliteration of a short-handed Econ club, the Lady Bobcats of EHS crossed the plate 13 times in the second inning, batting around twice en route to their fourth District 31-5A win without a blemish. To start the league season, they’d carved the Lady Cards up for 11 first-inning tallies, and have now toed the dish 61 times in four games, allowing just six runs total.

“No, not quite, almost,” grinned senior first baseman Sarina Rios, when comparing the relative minute count. “The Harlingen thing was like 30 minutes, at least, and it was crazy because we thought they were a pretty good team. But we just kept on scoring, it was crazy!”

And it is a severely offensive group this year, as illustrated by the run parade so far; there are no weak spots in the order from top to bottom, with ninth hitter Kassy Rodriguez letting them fly as easily as leadoff girl Leeanne Hinojosa. In between, there are bangers to spare in shortstop Anissa Gonzalez, Rios, and catcher Deidra Tafolla, who got three hits and drove in five runs for victories over P-SJ-A and the Lady Jags (0-4).

But the difference may be pitching when it is all said and done. In their quest to dethrone city king North in 2010, the Lady ‘Cats have a pair of outstanding freshmen on the mound in Myranda Hinojosa and Sammy Arciba. The former blanked the Bears Wednesday with eight strikeouts, and the latter continues to perfect a change-up to go with her awesome heat. Hinojosa’s change is already a depressing mystery for opposing batters.

Thursday it felt like the stage was already set for next week’s Round One collision between the two teams who have shaken out as co-favorites to win the district title. Can’t we just have the Lady ‘Cats and Lady Coogs play every day? Edinburg is up for that. North would surely oblige.

“I think we have what it takes this year and those are going to be some great games,” said senior outfielder Claudia Salinas, who has been around the bend once or twice against the rival band. “This year we like our chances, we came so close last time.”

First there are matches against Pharr North and Harlingen South, and the Lady Bobcats must make sure to take care of business in order to be unbeaten for their initial shot this season at standout senior hurler Iliana Hinojosa. North is cranking along without a hitch in the get-along right now, and to show how much the anticipation for the showdown has already surged, North coach Richard Tressler and ace Hinojosa were standing by to watch the EHS demolition of P-SJ-A.

Both these teams are on edge about the crash, in a good way. The girls of each squad feel that the other has gotten more ink in the media, and we are reminded that the scribes are usually in such a no-win situation.

Bottom line, it’s going to be nasty March 30, and if you miss it, don’t come crying to Papa. You’ve been warned.

The highlight of Thursday’s blowout came at the end when backup OF Jeanette Perez, a team favorite for her witty and whimsical moments, slammed a double to left field to drive in two runs, eventually scoring the third and 18th of the day. Careening madly around the bases after an outfield error, Perez capered on in amid a roar of delight from her teammates after an old-fashioned Little League “home run.”

The fun was to last only until the next outing, as the Lady Bobcats know that the mountain awaits. Will the EHS bunt-and-run attack, bolstered by steady sticks from 1 to 9, be able to surmount Ili and her talented and seasoned North bunch? Mariah Ozuna and Rodriguez laid them down with expertise against Econ, and the team has super speed. Can the freshman arms subdue Cynthia Granado, Claire Garcia and the rest of the Lady Coogs at the bat? That ain’t easy, not even close.

All these questions…answers in the offing…stay tuned and get ready for blastoff.

NOTES: In last week’s paper, a picture of Econ first baseman Gina Hernandez was labeled incorrectly; the Review regrets the mistake.