It appears to be a different feel in 2009, and that’s why the Lady Jags were bummed out after Tuesday’s district opener. The 12-1 blowout loss at home to Pharr North hurt more than the shellackings in recent years, because Econ had turned the corner.

Recently, they won three times in a row to advance to the consolation finals at the BISD Tourney, and coming into the 31-5A kickoff they were 5-5, with more wins already than they had all of last year.

So to see the thing crater, even though it was against the perennially dominant Lady Raiders, and thus, no shame, was a downer.

“We looked good for awhile there, but we had that one bad inning,” said coach Lonnie Garza, after the Lady Jags gave up five runs in the third to fall behind 5-0. After a solid beginning, the team ended up committing five errors, walked six batters, and generally looking iffy.

But hope springs eternal on the East Side, and with good reason.

Sophomore Kayla Silva, who took the loss against PN, nonetheless has carried the squad at times according to Garza, who took over the program from Mari Campos and seeks to use his impressive career in baseball to teach the girls from the ground up.

The coach said that the Lady Jags have yet to really hit the ball well, but that they are better in the field, one of the team’s bugaboos in a long line of losing seasons that that stretches back to the playoff run of 2003.

“We should be competitive this season, although it is really a tough league this season from top to bottom,” Garza said. “The girls gave come a long way, we have some good seniors and we are playing three freshman, so we’ll see.”

Silva’s battery mate is a freshman with good bloodlines, Rachel Rodriguez, whose sister, Roxy, was a standout in three sports for Econ, including softball. She had a good arm and has stroked the ball this year in her debut campaign.

Around the horn, the Lady Jags start young Cory Garza (2 for 2 Tuesday) at first, senior Cecy Medina at second, veteran Val Perez at short, and newcomer Gina Hernandez at third. Each has some size and they made the plays most of the night against the Lady Raiders.

Center fielder Melissa Camargo is perhaps the best athlete on the roster, with a strong throwing arm and potential to burn. She and fellow outfielders Lory Martinez and Melody “Little One” Alvarez had trouble in the opener, but should form a solid group this season.

This winter the Lady Jags formed a team in the winter league and kept it together throughout the schedule. For a program that depends on multi-sport athletes and has suffered with lack of numbers and inconsistent attendance in the past, this is a key.

“That should help us, it’s the first time we didn’t drop out of the league,” Garza noted. “And we are working on putting a team in the summer league too. If they keep on working hard and stay with it, I think we can make improvement each season.”

Returning starter Bianca Diaz, out with a thumb injury right now, commented that the girls have embraced their new skipper.

“He’s great! If we need it, he’ll get on us in a hurry,” Diaz reported. “There’s no wiggle room with him, but he doesn’t get all up in your face about things, he just tells you what you need to be doing better. I think we’ll be a lot better this year.”

NOTES: In city golf, Felicia Espericueta of North won first at the RGV Coaches Association Meet in San Antonio, shooting 11 strokes better than traditional rival Elizabeth Hovda of Weslaco. The Lady Coog team was third behind Sharyland and McAllen High. The EHS boys were fourth with North sixth.