Often times, a game is a game is a game. But then there’s The Game. And when it’s North versus Edinburg High, or Lady Cougars versus Lady Bobcats, it isn’t just a game…it’s a softball experience!

Those two have been pounding away at each other now for 20 years, and it just keeps getting more interesting by the season. About the history, all EHS’s Leeanne Hinojosa knows is that, well… she knows she knows just about all the girls on the North roster. For example, she’s played with or against Cynthia Granado since kindergarten, and went to junior high with pitching rival Iliana Hinojosa. So as the righty hurler prepared to take the mound against the ancient and perennial rival Tuesday, she was all over the upcoming challenge. And willing to share.

“It’s way different than other games,” said Hinojosa, who’d pitched a three-hitter in downing Harlingen South Friday. The win by “The Little General” made the Lady Bobcats 4-2 in league play with the Lady Cogs coming into the key tilt Tuesday at 5-1. “Because we know each other, obviously we are going to want to win even more. Way more. We all know the styles, what we can do, so it just boils down to who can concentrate more, stay in the game mentally, and come through. I am super excited, because I think we have a good chance to pull it off.”

Hinojosa, a sophomore who was highly touted from the outset and has consistently delivered on the hill and at the plate to date, admits that for the past few years, EHS has been behind North in softball. But she recalls a time when the opposite was true.

“I went to South Middle School,” she explained. “And we won a lot back then, one year we won district in everything, 7th and 8th grade, so that was crazy. But we haven’t been able to pull it together so well so far on varsity. But I am thinking that tomorrow will be our breakthrough point. I have been nervous about it since I first saw it on the schedule. I mean, man!”

Tuesday’s grind between these two came at the end of the first half of 31-5A play, with North maintaining a high Valley ranking and the Lady ‘Cats having dropped out of the top 10 recently. A win Tuesday would lift Hinojosa’s bunch back into the hunt.

“It’s important for that, but also for who it is,” Hinojosa noted. “It is kind of like the way I see my own progression as a player. Last year, freshman year, I think I put too much pressure on myself to do too well, like everyone was expecting it out of me. Maybe they were, maybe they weren’t. But this time I feel like I have grown up a lot, and am starting to learn to just do what it takes.”

Drawing the analogy back toward the team, she said learning that not every player shines every play has been important for her, and for the squad as it comes together with a nice midseason show of teamwork.

“I am older, more in shape, plus smarter…supposedly, anyway, ha ha. No, really, I think the game is much clearer to me now. I’m to the point now where if the team needs a bunt, I bunt. That’s the way it has to be, we all have to be ready to do whatever, especially if we want to beat North. I think when you relax and just play, it’s best.”

Hinojosa commented that this year’s EHS squad is loaded with excellent athletes, including the fabulous freshmen group led by Amazing Anyssa Gonzalez. They have the horses, in other words. Now it’s time to show what they’ve learned.

“We keep our heads in the game and we’ll be alright. No errors. Well, some will happen, but we need to keep our mental aspect right,” stressed The General. “With it being North, and over there at their place, it will be chaos. They have a smaller park than us, and there will be a lot of distractions. But we have to block that out and just play.”

With all the hoopla surrounding the latest installment of the serial battle, Hinojosa knows that when it’s over, the kids will all be friends again. But she doesn’t discount what’s riding on the effort.

“I have teachers at school, and they know nothing ‘bout sports, they couldn’t care less,” she laughed. “But when we tell them we have a game, and it’s Cougars, they are fired up. They’re like, ‘Really? OK then.’”