Now that the madness has subsided, as the Friday lunacy has faded slightly into the dust and the clarity hazily returns, somebody go find the character in the North press box who played that song after one of the craziest softball games in the history of the world. HIGH FIVE!
Ten innings of intense war between the most ancient of rivals, with a leg up for the district title hanging in the balance. Tense, fraught with greatness wrapped around moments of ineptitude, a tit for tat for the ages…and the cat spins War’s awesome 1975 anthem, “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” afterward?
Dude…really? OK…claro que si.
All those who were present for EHS’s 5-4 nail-nail-nail-biter of a victory - and there were tons of people lining the fence, believe it - were exhausted after the fact. The teams had exchanged blows for 10 innings, trading single runs in the sixth, eighth, and ninth frames, combining for 20 hits, 11 errors, and multiple heart-attack moments. They each came in 8-1 in 31-5A, with the winner assured of vital momentum heading into the stretch run and of course, supreme bragging rights in the hottest rivalry in the Valley.
In the telltale tenth, the Lady Bobcats (20-3) got an enormous RBI double from freshman Analisa Delgado and finished it with gutty relief pitching from sophomore Sammy Arciba. Delgado’s opposite-field smash plated Tori de Leon, and in its half North got runners to second and third before Annie Badillo slapped a comebacker to Arciba for the final out, handing EHS the game and avenging a one-run loss suffered at home to the Lady Cougars earlier in the slate.
Though they handed the gutsy Lady Coogs (21-6) a number of chances to re-tie the match, committing five miscues afield, the Lady ‘Cats had survived, in a supremely exciting brawl between the second- and third-ranked squads in the land.
EHS senior Leeanne Hinojosa, who had two hits including a smash double to left field in the ninth that led to a short-lived 4-3 lead, summed it up.
“I don’t remember playing in a crazier game,” sighed The Little General in the hubbub after the tenth ended. “It was so wild, when I came up in the ninth I didn’t even hear them call my name, I was just concentrating on what I had to do. Then, I was telling Analisa, she had to find a way to step up. She was saying that she didn’t know if she could do it, and I just said, ‘Hey, when you’re a senior like me, you want to be able to look back and say you did great!’”
Delgado listened well, and came through with the game-winner. A surprise addition to the starting lineup in the ninth spot, the sweet-swinging righty had impressed the coaches in the cage for practices leading up to the grudge match. Now we know what the mentors saw.
WAITING ALL WEEK
To start, EHS blew a couple of plays, as Arciba left early from third on a would-be sacrifice fly in the second by Myranda Hinojosa (2 for 5, solid starting pitching effort into the eighth), erasing a marker. And then she fielded a short pop in right and attempted to get Melina Sanchez heading back to first instead of runner Vanessa Salazar steaming home, leading to a 1-0 game in the second. It had looked like the strong-armed star had a good shot at Salazar at the dish.
But Arciba, who led all hitters with three base knocks, redeemed herself with a single and RBI in the fourth for the 1-1 tie. The Lady ‘Cats took the lead in the sixth thanks to two errors by North and a bouncing single by Myranda Hinojosa that chased home Cassandra Garcia.
But North began its rallying ways with a big hit from Melina Sanchez in the bottom of the sixth, and after a scoreless seventh it was extra innings, 2-2. Before it got there, Hinojosa fanned Claire Garcia and got Badillo on a fly to center in the bottom of the seventh, in a fine display of pressure pitching.
The rivals each got a run in the eighth and ninth, amid pure pandemonium at the park. An outfield drop allowed the Lady ‘Cats to parlay another RBI from M. Hinojosa into the 3-2 advantage in the eighth. But again North was equal to the task in its half. Bobcat Killer Cynthia “Chinch” Granado singled to start it and Arciba relieved with one out and runners at first and third. Melina Sanchez delivered again with a one-base hit to re-knot the affair, and then ensued the nuttiest play on a bizarre night.
Desiree Dominguez of North hit a liner to Davila at first; Davila hesitated before racing back to the bag to try for the game-winning double play. Runner “Smurff” Salazar was safe and for an instant it appeared that North had achieved the game-winning run. But in the dead-ball situation, the bases were now loaded with the run negated, and Sam Cantu floated one to second where Anissa Gonzalez made the catch to retire the side.
Davila came up huge with an RBI double in the Lady ‘Cat ninth to make it 4-3, but EHS made three errors in the North ninth, leading to the tying run aided by a superb bunt from Granado. EHS benefited from a controversial call at third, as Badillo was called out when it appeared she was safe. But the Lady Coogs had scratched for the deadlock, with Arciba reaching back for something extra to fan Victoria Cardenas in a key sequence.
After the freshman Delgado put EHS on top 5-4, North was ready to make magic again, as after two quick outs, Cantu and Garcia walked. But the final out came on the comebacker to the mound from Badillo, and this wild one was in the books almost three hours after it had begun.
NOTES: With No. 1 San Benito’s surprise loss to Los Fresnos Friday, the Lady Bobcats should return to the top spot in the Valley this week. After a tremendous effort despite their heartbreaking third loss in three seasons at home to EHS, the Lady Coogs should be close behind in the polls.
The baseball Bobcats also went to extra innings before taking a triumph Friday, beating Pharr North 4-3 in 11 innings to rise to 7-2 in 31-5A, 18-6 overall. Edgar Cordon got the game-winning hit for EHS at home.
Hard-luck North lost a one-run game for the third time in 31-5A play Friday, 2-1 to P-SJ-A Memorial, and is now 3-6 in league action.
CITY SOFTBALLERS PILE UP
SOME IMPRESSIVE NUMBERS
The numbers don’t lie. Looking at the statistics for a moment will reveal why EHS and North are once again among the Valley’s elite programs, having won 41 of 50 games combined so far.
Over at EHS, the Lady Bobcats (20-3) are hitting a robust .379 as a team, with five starters over 400. Sophomore catcher Cassandra Garcia has been a pleasant surprise this year, with a .475 mark, while senior outfielder Leeanne Hinojosa has had a great year so far, with a .462 average, a team-best 20 runs, and fine marks for on-base average (576) and slugging percentage (.712). From the leadoff slot she has walked 14 times.
Slugging second sacker Anissa Gonzalez leads the team with 19 RBI and three home runs, for a super slugging percentage of .734. Other Lady ‘Cats who are shining include first baseman Brit Davila (.431 batting average), third baseman Tori de Leon (.447 with 14 RBI) and the soph duo of Myranda Hinojosa (.357) and Sammy Arciba (.404, seven doubles).
Rounding out the crew are soph SS Z Borrego (.340, .431 OBA) and speedy left fielder Kassy Rodriguez, who has hit .286 and become an excellent bunter for a club that returns eight of nine starters for 2012.
As for the Lady Cougars of North (21-6), the numbers parade is paced by senior catcher Victoria Cardenas, who carries a .422 batting clip with an amazing 41 RBI so far. She has belted three of the team’s nine homers and slugs .614.
Seniors Cynthia Granado and Claire Garcia have enjoyed great seasons in their final go-round at North. First baseman Granado bats .360 with 19 RBI, and has walked 17 times. Garcia’s .467 on-base average in the leadoff slot pairs with a .313 clip and a team-leading 35 runs scored.
At second base, Vanessa Salazar is at .311 with 23 runs and 21 RBI, for a club that hits .296 collectively and has been patient at the plate, with 107 walks.
This year’s edition has gotten steady production out of the bottom half of the order, as third baseman Sam Cantu and outfielders Lauren Salaiz and Smurff Salazar have combined for 40 RBI.