Faced with much the same situation as the softball girls a night before, the baseball Bobcats struggled with a pesky underdog in orange before clearing the decks for a win.
EHS took down Econ 7-1 Friday, to increase its record to 7-4 in District 31-5A with three games to play, and remain in contention for second place. But it didn’t come easy, as the Jags battled well, made the routine plays that so often elude them, and for a while there, were thinking upset.
In a home game that was a quasi-road game (Edinburg was the visitor in its own park, as the Jag field was still a lake at game time and the action shifted to EHS) the ‘Cats gave up the early mojo but steadily fought back.
Right-hander Lee Rios struck out 10 on the mound in a 3-hitter through six, and Sammy Alvarado finished up, as the Bobcats (16-11 overall and rebounding after a shutout loss to P-SJ-A) advanced to the last three matches of the season, against Pharr North, Harlingen South, and Edinburg North to close April 30. Rios also socked two of the team’s 12 hits, including a single in the third that gave the ‘Cats a 3-1 bulge.
Is the worm beginning to turn for the Jags? Though they have won just once all season, they’re starting to get energized under interim manager Matt Benavidez, who took over a few weeks back when regular leader J.J. Serda resigned for personal reasons.
Econ did a good job Friday in the early stages, getting solid fielding from J.C. Garcia at second base and a diving grab in right field from Richard Warwas that saved a run in the first. The kids were fired up and having fun in the dugout, showing that despite a winless mark in league play, they are excited about the future.
Catcher Ray Miranda drove in a run in the first with a groundout to give the Jags a lead but Edinburg tied it up in the second on an RBI smash from Carlos Pena.
In the third, the Orange D finally blinked, making three errors to allow two runs after two were out. All night, EHS took advantage with two outs, with Rios’ hit one of the big blows.
The Jags have plated just 2.2 runs a game, though, this season, and could not do much against Rios. Outside of two hits each from Humberto Guerra and hulking Epi Vega, Econ was stymied. The bottom three hitters in the order went 0 for 7 with seven Ks against Rios, who had a good fastball working along with a trick pitch that is somewhere between a forkball and a spilt-seamer.
The ‘Cats broke it open later in the night, using their patented “Run ‘em” play to get two cheapies in the sixth. Alvarado walked on a ball-four wild pitch and kept on going to second, with both Ricky Vazquez and Jeremy Salinas hustling around to score on the throw down to second. This two-out rally had been kept alive when Salinas beat out an infield hit by a half step. Christian Alvarado then golfed an opposite-field double into the left-center gap for a 6-1 count and Rios himself provided the seventh tally with an RBI single in the seventh.
Econ starter Justin Montano, a sophomore, had a decent outing, but defensive woes did him in down the stretch. For EHS, shortstop Derrick Soza had three hits while Pena made a couple of sharp plays at first. In the third he started a double play by fielding a grounder, stomping the bag and firing to second for the twin kill. A frame onward he executed a pretty scoop at first on a low bouncing throw from Soza to end the inning after Vega had doubled with one out.
NOTES: Head football coach and AD Oscar Salinas was in uniform again for the Jags; he has joined the team to add coaching depth for the second half of the season and said that he has always enjoyed nights on the diamond.
Salinas’ football group was to take to the field Tuesday to begin spring practice as the only one of three city units to take part in the annual ritual. The Jags return 16 starters including a bevy of seniors who have been highly successful at the lower levels.
Econ continued its solid play Saturday with a narrow 4-1 loss to North.