“How could you be so heartless?”
Be sure, there is no confirmation that Kanye West is a softball fan, but strains of his hit song, which was heard several times between innings Tuesday night, summed up the amazing comeback Edinburg created in the midst of the enemy horde.
Using the bunt-and-run strategy to perfection, the Lady Bobcats rallied from a 4-1 deficit with two runs in the sixth and three more in an exhilarating seventh to knock the Lady Cougars off, 6-4 on the road. Heartless they were in forcing three infield errors from the normally sure-handed North crew, and ruthless she was, Sarina Rios, who smacked a pair of doubles including one in the last frame that gave her team the lead.
In all, it was a stunning turnaround, after North put four on the floor through two and looked unbeatable behind star pitcher Iliana Hinojosa. But Leanne “The Little General” Hinojosa rebounded to blank the foe over the last five innings, getting gutty plays at third from stellar freshman Tori DeLeon and a diving grab in right field from Victoria Ponce in the seventh.
When it was done, EHS (16-6 overall) had tied the Lady Coogs (18-3) with a 5-2 district mark, etching another classic battle into the books in this long and fierce rivalry; few of the grudge matches between the city schools have been as scintillating.
The Lady ‘Cats came in seeking to catch and pass a program that has had its number the past few campaigns. In attempting to do that, they started slowly with some boots of routine plays, including a dropped pop at first from Rios, who admitted that for a while, it seemed iffy.
“We may have hung our heads for a few minutes there, but we talked it out and decided we had to pick it up, and now!” said Rios, who got two of the team’s seven hits with Hinojosa also producing two. “It was frustrating for me, because after the first two at-bats I didn’t think I was doing what I was capable of. But I figured I would get another chance, and things happen for a reason. This was exciting!!”
After the Lady ‘Cats scratched out a run to start it when Rios bunted past the mound in the first for an RBI sacrifice, North got rolling. The Lady Coogs banged out three hits each in the first and second to take a 4-1 advantage that held up through three scoreless innings to follow.
With Hinojosa striking out the side in the fifth, it looked like smooth sailing, but North had failed to augment its lead in two straight innings as DeLeon converted 5-to-3 putouts to end the fourth and fifth with runners on.
Little did anyone know that the game would mirror North’s recent 3-2 loss to Harlingen South, where the Lady Coogs outhit the Lady Hawks 11-5 but stranded a ton of runners because they failed to get the timely hit.
But it did. They got 10 safeties Tuesday to seven for EHS but left eight on the sacks.
Anyssa Gonzalez, playing short these days with DeLeon at third and Claudia Salinas back in center field, walked to get the sixth started and Rios belted one off Hinojosa into the gap in left center to make it 4-2. DeLeon laid down a bunt and Cynthia Granado (3 for 4 for North) threw it away, Rios scoring. Salinas and Mariah Ozuna sacrificed DeLeon to third but Ponce grounded for the third out.
Hinojosa, now in her happy place on the mound, set the Lady Coogs down 1-2-3 and out came Jesse Banda’s band to try for the Upset Special.
Patient Brittany Davila worked Ili Hinojosa for a walk as the seventh commenced, with the North hurler wide and high, a harbinger. With two strikes, Leanne Hinojosa, having failed to lay the bunt down, slapped one to short and beat the throw, which was in the dirt. Then North’s Hinojosa bore down to get Cassie Rodriguez on strikes, but not before uncorking a fateful wild pitch allowing Davila to race home for the tie.
Gonzalez popped to third and with two outs, up stepped Rios, by far the most physically impressive player on the field, and she delivered a shot down the left-field line to tie it.
With Red and Blue fans swaying in the left-field bleachers and the dugout yelling the “Bobcats! Bobcats!” chant that North has grown to loathe through the years, DeLeon ripped a clean single to center for the insurance run.
In the seventh, Hinojosa battled to get her North namesake on a grounder to DeLeon that the latter deftly backhanded near the bag and calmly tossed to first. Ponce then came up with a grand catch off the bat of leading hitter Claire Garcia (near .500) and soph catcher Victoria Cardenas (two hits and an RBI) flied to center to end it.
Banda said that the team played poorly in the early going, disappointing considering what was at stake Tuesday.
“But we got it going after that, we quit being nervous and started making plays,” said the second-year coach. “We executed the gameplan to bunt and run, and we got some key hits when we needed them. We hung in there and got a win we needed.”
It was a huge triumph on the opponent’s home field, as the Lady ‘Cats tied their rival in the standings as the first half of district play came to a close in stirring fashion. Heartless indeed, a masterful rally by a team with, um, heart to spare.
NOTES: North’s woes continued Friday with a 6-0 home loss to Harlingen, dropping the Lady Coogs to a tie with Harlingen South for the final playoff spot, while EHS defeated P-SJ-A Memorial 3-1 to remain knotted in second with Harlingen. The Lady Bobcats and Lady Cards were set to face off Tuesday.