They’re through with the relative lightweights, and now it’s time to see what the city softball gals have to offer in the later rounds of the postseason. North will take on San Benito while EHS draws Harlingen South, with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line for both this weekend.
It is a fairly daunting task facing the Lady Cougars (29-7) in the regional quarterfinals, as the San Benito team they match up with is once again one of the best in South Texas. The series begins Thursday in San Benito, continuing Friday in Edinburg, with a Game Three back in Cameron County Saturday if necessary. All games are scheduled for 7 p.m.
The Lady Greyhounds (30-3) have posted an amazing 19 shutouts in winning 30 of 33 games, allowing just one run six other times. They breezed through 32-5A to win the title, with a 9-0 start during which they scored 114 runs and gave up just one. The Lady ‘Hounds then lost 8-7 to Los Fresnos and beat Weslaco 9-8, eventually finishing up 13-1 in league play.
Coach Elias Martinez has built a dynasty at San Benito, and this year he’s got some experienced girls who want to bring the club back to the Sweet 16, where it last appeared in 2008. Shortstop Amanda Garza is one of the best in the area, and somewhat like North, the team’s strength lies in the infield. Freshman Amber Garza is the horse on the mound for this deep and confident contingent.
In non-district play they lost to EHS 9-7 and Port Lavaca Calhoun 3-2 in eight innings. Other than that, this team has been just about spotless.
The series is a rematch, on more than one level. Last year San Benito defeated North 5-0 and 5-1 in bi-district before losing in the regional quarters to EHS. It bested the Lady Coogs 9-6 earlier in the season, and has beaten Harlingen and Eagle Pass Winn in the postseason to advance to this stage.
Coach Richard Tressler thinks that if his team plays to its potential, the results will take care of themselves. After all, he’s got his own dynasty working.
“I know they are tough but I really feel that this is not his best team,” he said of San Benito. “They have good team speed, kind of like EHS, and a few girls who can hit with power. But their district is pretty weak, actually, and that gives us the edge there, because 31-5A is a very strong league.”
Tressler hopes to continue to get contributions from up and down the order, something that has been a boon to the team’s fortunes in 2011.
“We have really gotten some help all year there,” he said. “If the bottom of the order can do their job, like Sam Cantu did against Sharyland, it will give us an even better chance to win.”
The coach notes that his kids have to be disciplined at the plate against SB’s Garza, who walked four hitters when the two teams played earlier in the campaign.
“Along with that patience, we need to be ready to drive the ball when we get a pitch we like,” he commented. “Bottom line, we’re not looking for style points, all you have to do is score one more run than your opponent.”
North has beaten Weslaco and Sharyland to reach the third round. The winner of the series takes on the victor in the war between San Antonio schools Johnson (District 26-5A winner) and Southwest (28-5A champ).
A GOOD/DANGEROUS DRAW
EHS (29-4) faces Harlingen South (22-10) in the regional quarters, after having beaten the Lady Hawks twice in 31-5A action this year. But South has turned it on in the playoffs, hammering Los Fresnos 13-2 and Eagle Pass twice to reach this stage. In district, South was 10-4, losing to EHS twice, North once, and Harlingen.
The Lady Hawks have a powerful hitting lineup and solid pitching/defense, having notched 10 or more runs six times in district. South, under Coach Debbie Esparza, made it to the Sweet 16 last year and the squad is built around a trio of seasoned sophomores plus ace pitcher Chelsea Arredondo. Catcher Priscilla Loa and first baseman Jewels Ortiz have combined for 13 home runs while shortstop Stephanie Lugo is a super leadoff hitter.
The Lady Bobcats pounded Brownsville Hanna and then got past McAllen in three games to reach this stage, at which they defeated San Benito last year to advance to the Sweet 16. There, EHS dropped out against SA Taft, who this year lost to Johnson in the second round.
Coach Jesse Banda says that his girls are ready to rock against South, though he knows it won’t be easy. The series begins with a home game Thursday, and it is imperative for the Lady ‘Cats to get out fast. Game Two will be Friday at South, with the clincher, if needed, at the neutral site of La Joya Saturday night.
“We won the flip, they wanted a one-gamer but we are playing three,” he said Monday, hours before a pep rally for the softballers. “South is on a roll, they have done well in the playoffs, and it’s vital for us to get on top of them early. That means winning Game One.”
The Lady Hawks and Lady Bobcats are old friends, as many of the players compete on the same club/travel team together in the offseason.
“Yeah, they know each other well,” Banda agreed. “There aren’t going to be any surprises, it will all boil down to execution in this series. They have a tough team, we just have to secure that first game and we’ll be OK.”
The winner of the series will get the survivor of a battle between New Braunfels (25-5A champ) and SA O’Connor (27-5A champ), meaning that in the regional quarters, South and North are the only teams on this side of the bracket not to have won their league.