So far, so good for North and EHS, as each swept to victories in bi-district softball action over the weekend. The Lady Coogs scored a pair of dramatic 6-5 victories against Weslaco, while Edinburg wasted Brownsville Hanna, 10-0 and 7-0.
Victoria Cardenas was the hero over in Weslaco Saturday, as she nailed a triple in the seventh inning to drive in the winning run. It was one of five extra-base hits claimed by North, 27-6 for the year and set to take on Sharyland (21-10), which rallied from a 1-0 deficit to sweep Laredo United Saturday at home in round one.
EHS exploded on the Lady Eagles for eight runs in the first Friday and cruised to the tape, coming back the next day to topple the foe with another shutout. The Lady Bobcats (27-3 and ranked No. 18 in the state by the Texas Girls Coaches Association) now head into the second round where they face a fairly formidable opponent in 22-6 McAllen High.
LADY COOGS FINE IN CLUTCH
North's series was a great one in which the team came from behind both times. Before the 6-5 win Saturday, Game One was an amazing example of the old softball adage: you never know. The 31-5A second-place unit was superb in all aspects of the game for six innings, playing excellent defense, bunting well, and getting 1-hit pitching from junior Annie Badillo.
Then the roof caved in, as Badillo walked the first two hitters to lead the seventh, with her team up 3-1. With the bases loaded, the Pantherettes hit a sharp single for a run and the throw to the plate got past catcher Victoria Cardenas, giving Weslaco three runs on the stunning play, and a 4-3 advantage. The underdog added another on a bloop single shortly thereafter and the Lady Coogs came to bat with the pressure suddenly on.
"I told them later that they had played flawless ball for seven of the eight innings, they just had one bad moment and it almost cost us," Coach Richard Tressler said afterward. "I think Annie may have been trying to be a little too fine there in the seventh, but she came right back and struck out the side, the middle of their order, an inning later."
In the comeback seventh, the Lady Coogs started with 7-8-9 in the order and those kids came through. Lauren Salaiz slammed a leadoff double into the left-field corner, and with one out third baseman Sam Cantu connected on a first-pitch single.
After Claire Garcia flied out, up came Vanessa Salazar with the game on the line. She grounded to short, but hustled down the line and in a cloud of dust, dived for the bag. At first it appeared that she was out and North had lost, but the throw had pulled the Weslaco first baseman a smidge off the bag, and two runs had scored to knot the game.
"It just shows our mettle, and focus," Tressler noted. "We should have won that game 3-1 in seven, but we came back against the odds. We got 10 hits and though we hit too many balls in the air, the girls came through in the seventh."
The eighth was even more dramatic, as the slugging Lady Coogs showed they can Small Ball with the best of them.
After Badillo had fanned the side in extra innings, Cardenas, who had three ringing base hits, started the home half with a solid single. Melina Sanchez pushed a perfect bunt past the mound on the right side, beating the throw for an infield hit. Then Badillo laid down an almost identical bunt for a sacrifice. Salaiz popped out and just like in the seventh, the next hitter, Smurff Salazar, hit what appeared to be curtains, a pop to second. But on a tricky windy night, Weslaco couldn't handle the can of corn, as its second sacker dropped the clincher, with the winning run coming home.
"We get no style points for that one, but really, it would be hard to read the story about this game, see it 6-5, and realize how well we actually played through most of it," Tressler commented.
Weslaco had broken on top 1-0 in the first with a searing home run to left-center by sophomore outfielder Angela Johnson (who also homered in the first inning of Game Two). North evened the count in its half of the first when Cynthia Granado knocked a run-scoring infield groundout. From there, Badillo was in command, yielding no more hits until the shaky seventh.
Meanwhile, North scratched for single runs in the fourth and fifth, with Badillo driving home a run with a grounder and Garcia slamming an opposite-field triple for a 3-1 edge an inning later.
Though she got hung up between third and home and was tagged out in the first, courtesy runner Audrey Trevino redeemed herself with some excellent base running. Prior to making out the speedy runner had stolen second. Then in the fourth she went from first to third on a Melina Sanchez bunt, diving into third, later scoring. In the last frame, she scored the winning run.
"I think Audrey is really going to help us next year, she can really go on the basepaths," said Tressler of the spirited junior. "She will be playing somewhere in the field, maybe as the designated hitter, not sure yet."
As for the EHS area round match: the Lady Bulldogs of McHigh went 12-2 in District 30-5A, avenging an earlier loss to Sharyland on the final night of the regular season to tie for the league title at the wire. They defeated Laredo United, Eagle Pass Winn, and Boerne Champion in non-district, losing 2-1 to powerful San Antonio Churchill and 4-2 to private school Antonian.
Their strength is pitching and defense, as they allowed just three runs per game in league play, holding their foes to two runs or fewer nine times. McAllen comes in averaging six runs a night on offense, having gotten 10 or more four times in 14 league tries.
On the other hand, North opponent Sharyland is on a roll after its comeback against United, so the series matches a pair of hot clubs. The Lady Rattlers, who allowed just two runs per game in tying for the 30-5A crown, scored nine each night, and their overall record is deceiving. A series of difficult musters in upstate tournaments put the team under .500, but it started 7-0 in league until a stumble versus Rowe, and ran off another six straight before losing to McAllen.
If the city girls should make it to the third round, the matchups will be daunting, with EHS probably looking at state-ranked Eagle Pass (26-3) and North at Valley power San Benito (29-3). EP defeated Mission in bi-district while San Benny knocked off Harlingen, though it allowed 14 runs in the two wins.