If this is the way the District 31-5A race is going to be this year, we’re in for some killer diamond action.

North ended up on the short end of the stick Tuesday, losing at home to P-SJ-A, blowing a 4-3 lead heading into the top of the seventh in a 6-4 defeat. The Coogs (1-1 in league play, 10-3 overall) experienced problems corralling balls in the outfield, and ace J.D. Escobar go rocked for eight hits despite striking out nine.

But despite losing an 8-game winning streak, the Coogs showed why they have been one of the big stories of 2009, with a handful of excellent plays. Shortstop Chris DeLuna ranged far into the hole to throw out a runner on a beautiful play on which he ended up past the third-base foul line. Catcher Erick Casillas atoned for an earlier error that cost a run by gunning down a runner attempting to steal in the sixth. And promising sophomore Andrew Arteaga continued to pound the ball with two solid base hits.

Still, North surrendered three runs in the seventh against the Bears, one of the teams Coach Nick Cantu’s club will battle with this spring for 31-5A supremacy. Escobar, who rebounded from a slow start (thanks to a couple of iffy plays in the outfield that cost three runs) to gain command, mixing a fastball in the high 80s and some nasty breaking stuff, was drilled for a triple and double in the seventh as the Bears rallied for the triumph.

“I don’t think I did enough work coming into this game, my legs weren’t under me at times,” said Escobar, a fiery character who is among the Valley’s best this year. “I guarantee no team is ever going to get six runs off me in one game. No chance.”

The Cougars, who had lost just twice all year coming in (to P-SJ-A and Sharyland) roared from a 2-0 deficit to plate four runs in the third on five base hits. Arteaga, a right fielder with a super quick bat, slammed a double and the Joshes, Carranza and Silva, also produced good contact.

The Bears cut it to 4-3 in the fifth with a two-out, extra-base knock but Carranza (who made a sweet catch of a foul pop near the first-base dugout to end the second) led off the fifth with a single and stole second. However, North could not get him home and eventually headed to the last frame up one.

With two on and two out, Escobar delivered to Rolando Cantu, who cracked a long three-bagger into the right-center gap to put the Bears ahead. After P-SJ-A added an insurance tally with a double, hard-throwing Bear starter Rolly Garcia did the rest.

After Rick Fuerte (2 for 3) singled to begin the last chance for the home side, Garcia snagged a hard hopper off the bat of DeLuna and turned it into a twin-killing. Carranza (2 for 4) flied out to end it.

It was a startling loss for a team that went into the night ranked second in the Valley, but Coach Nick Cantu thinks that everything will still unfold as planned.

“I don’t know, maybe this will bring us back to earth,” said Cantu, whose group banged out eight hits. “It’s just one game, though, and we are going to have to just come back and keep playing.”

NOTES: The Coogs went into the Econ game Friday with four kids hitting over .400, infielder Cris Cavazos (.500) leading the way. Third baseman Noel Cruz was pacing the team with 11 RBI while outfielder Josh Silva had crossed the plate 15 times. Escobar is now 5-1 with a 2.13 ERA, with 30 K’s in 23 innings but also 25 hits allowed.