It had all the atmosphere of a regional tournament game, as a rowdy and packed house watched a fantastic softball collision that went down to the wire. After North inched ahead of Pharr North 4-3 Friday, Coach Richard Tressler said that some advice he once got from his dad was worth recalling.
“He was always a pretty poignant guy, he didn’t say that much, but when he did, it meant something,” said Tressler, whose 4-0, 17-1 bunch got great clutch hitting and a strong mound act from Ili Hinojosa to knock off a perennial power. “He said, “You’re only as good as your last game, you have to earn it on the field.’ That always helped me, when I was an athlete and now as a coach. We have to remember that now, as good a win as this was.”
Tressler and his gang were able to beat North for the first time in three seasons, despite some untimely mental mistakes. When sophomore Cynthia Granado blooped a two-out Texas League with the bases loaded in the sixth, the Lady Coogs scored the game-winner. Granado had earlier smashed a double good for two runs, in the third, but the Lady Raiders (3-1, 17-5) came back to tie the game in the sixth.
It was a see-saw battle between two of the Valley’s best, with numerous stars.
One was Vanessa Espinoza, who like her North teammates wasn’t nervous Friday, just super intense. She’d concentrated on the game to come all day long, and once it started, the senior infielder was in the middle of the action all the way.
Espinosa singled twice, made six assists from third base, and rebounded from a late bonehead play to register the game-clinching effort on D, fielding a sharp one-hopper from Lady Raider star Roxanne Rodriguez to end it with two outs in the seventh.
In the sixth, with her team up 3-1, Espinoza had snagged a grounder but thrown behind the bag at second, hitting shortstop Claire Garcia instead of second baseman Cookie Torresmutt.
“I am used to seeing Cookie there, and I saw both of them, so I threw it to Claire,” said Espinoza, who stole a base, beat out a bunt, and had an infield hit for a 2-for-3 night. “I was like, oh wow, it was an accident. But I shook it off and just remembered all the practice we do. It was a big game for me. I just kept my head in it even after that one play.”
She was one of the stars of the show despite the sixth-inning blunder, as was Hinojosa, who struck out six and allowed just five hits. Hinojosa also blundered in the sixth, as she fielder a comebacker with a runner at third, and hesitated long enough to allow the runner to get back to the bag, the batter making first base as well.
But the hard-throwing junior bore down in the clutch to retire the Lady Raiders in the inning to come, and it was enough for the victory.
Afterward, Granado noted that the girls were humble, despite the big-time victory against the two-time defending champ.
“We made some mistakes but we had the heart and desire to come back and win it,” she commented. “It’s good to get this off our back and beat the Raiders, but it’s only one game. They are going to be ready for us the next time we play. So we just have to keep playing hard.”
The Lady Cougars took a 2-0 lead in the third on Granado’s hit, although Rodriguez, one of the Valley’s most dominant pitchers, had struck out five of the game’s first six batters. Each team tallied in the fourth and it was 3-1 into the sixth, when the two Edinburg North miscues allowed the visitor to tie.
It could have been worse, as on a liner to short, Garcia ran into the Lady Raider runner, missing the ball. Though the Lady Coogs screamed for an obstruction call, one run came in, and had Torresmut not alertly gunned down Priscilla Rodriguez at home to end the inning, the Lady Raiders would have taken the 4-3 advantage.
As it was, they did not, and it came down to the bottom half of the frame, when North loaded the bases with none out, only to have Espinoza fan looking and Laura Torres hit into a force play, leaving the sacks juiced. Granado then delivered the key hit to score senior Anyssa Avila, whose long double had started the rally. Espinoza redeemed herself by gloving Roxanne Rodriguez’ shot to end the game.
“I knew we could stay with them the entire game, and try and win it late,” said Tressler, whose team has lost once all year, 1-0, to state-ranked Kingsville. “The girls were confident, and they got the runs back they gave away. This win feels really good. It kind of gives me a renewed sense of worth as a coach. But we still have a long way to go this season.”