BASEBALL: Southwest’s Salinas proves mettle as all-star with game-winning hit

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If the 30th Valley-Hi Optimist Club All-Star baseball game had taken place during the preseason, rather than after the season had wrapped up, Southwest senior Javier Salinas might not have been chosen to participate.

That would have been unfortunate for the West team, which edged the East 7-6 Tuesday at the Frank Tejeda Complex.

As an encore to an outstanding senior year, Salinas drove in the game’s first run and also the West’s last ru n – which proved to be the game-winner.

“It was an honor,” Salinas said of being selected for the all-star contest. “I pretty much rode the bench the first three years. I finally got a chance this year. I tried to show I deserved it.

“When I finally got to play, I was an all-star. This has been a great experience.”

Salinas was one of 18 area players who played in the game. They represented 10 local schools.

Holy Cross senior Wyatt Trinidad and South San’s Adam Rodriguez drew walks as the first two West batters in the seventh. That brought up Salinas, who hopes to make the University of Texas-San Antonio squad as a walk-on or non-scholarship player.

The Dragons outfielder dropped an opposite-field single to right that brought Trinidad home and increased his team’s lead to 7-1. It didn’t seem that way at the time, but the run turned out to be vital.

“I felt pretty comfortable at the plate tonight,” Salinas said. “I was a little jittery in the first inning, but that went away. I was able to get out ahead of (that pitch) and take it oppo.”

West pitchers Jordan Hackett (Taft), Trinidad and John Eric Cortez (Southwest) had kept the East’s bats mostly silent to that point. That changed suddenly as Cortez entered his second inning.

After Cortez retired the leadoff hitter on a comebacker, Jesse Martinez (Holmes) lined a single and Jordan Pruitt (Cole) drew a walk. Matt Martinez (Antonian) followed with a crucial, two-run double.

With the East trailing 7-3, Seth Henry came to the plate. The Edison standout singled and then stole second as part of a delayed double steal. Martinez scored from third base and the East was within three runs.

“When you’ve got runs in scoring position, you have to move them over,” said Henry, who shared catching duties with Burbank’s Andy Morales. “I did my part, and other people did their parts. That was a good momentum changer.”

Henry scored as Burbank’s Eduardo Salas drew a walk on a wild pitch. West manager Polo Botello (Holy Cross) brought in reliever Ryan Larson (Warren) with the score 7-5.

Larson retired the first batter he faced, but Harlandale’s Michael Agis worked a 3-2 count against him. On the payoff pitch, Agis slammed a double off the left-field fence. It was the last hit on his home field for the four-year starter bound for Broward College.

Agis’ hit brought in Salas from second base.

“I was hoping it would go out. That would have made my day,” said Agis, who pitched three scoreless innings. “You never want to make the last out. I wanted to keep it going . If we had tied it there, who knows what might have happened.”

Edison’s Zach Garcia drew a base on balls from Larson, but the Warren pitcher escaped the inning without further damage. He then retired the last six East batters in order to notch the save.

Agis and West starting pitcher Jordan Hackett (Taft) kept the game 0-0 through three innings. The Harlandale pitcher cruised after pitching out of a bases-loaded situation in the first. He allowed just three hits, while Hackett limited the East to one.
It was the last game Agis will pitch for a while. He’s shutting his right arm down until he reports to Broward College in Florida in August to begin his junior college career.
“It felt great to be here with all these great players,” Agis said. “It was a good feeling to be out here (at the Tejeda Complex) one more time.
“(My pitching) was good and the other pitcher (Hackett) was good, too. I didn’t want to give up that first run.”
The West scored shortly after Agis’ mound stint ended.
In the fourth inning, Trinidad and Cortez drew walks ahead of Salinas’ first RBI single. William Rangel-Alfaro (Stevens) produced another RBI hit to make the score 2-0 in the West’s favor.
The East, managed by Highlands coach Mike Perez, also scored in the inning. Max Heintzelman (Antonian) and Agis, who drilled a rocket-shot past the shortstop, set the table. Garcia hit into a force out, but an errant throw at first brought in Heintzelman.
The West added three runs in the fifth on an RBI single from Andrew Johnson (Warren) and a two-RBI single from Larson. Central Catholic outfielder LaShawn Thomas sparked the rally by reaching base on a bloop single and stealing second base.
“I knew the pitchers,” Thomas said. “It really helped me to know those guys and what they were going to do. It was a great experience.”
The Central Catholic grad will play both football, as a wide receiver, and baseball at Norwich University, a private military school in Vermont.
“It was a great opportunity for me,” Thomas said. “I enjoyed my last baseball game. It got me prepared for next year at college.”
Trinidad, meanwhile, kept the East in check to protect the lead. The Knights ace limited the home team to three hits in his final baseball game.
“It started when I was warming up in the bullpen,” Trinidad said. “I was feeling like everything was working. When I’m able to locate my curve, it’s a good day.”
Although he’s coming off an outstanding career for the Knights, he won’t play college baseball. Trinidad who has a full academic scholarship to major in biology at Texas A&M University.
“I had a good season offensively,” he said. “I worked with the coaches and I ended up hitting .422. I had to work hard to do it, but hard work pays off.”
Trinidad led off the sixth with a base hit and scored on a wild pitch after Rodriguez and Juan Diaz (Highlands) filled the bases with a pair of walks. The West led 6-1 after six innings.
“It felt great to play with these guys,” Trinidad said. “We came together as a team right away. We didn’t have a practice. We all got here about 4:30 p.m. (for the 6:30 game).”
Like Harlandale coach Eric Forestier – the winning pitcher in the first Optimist all-star game – Montemayor played in the game as a high school senior. It had a different name at that time.

Valley-Hi Optimists All-Star Game area participants

East

Central Catholic – LaShawn Thomas; Holy Cross – Sammy Moreno, Wyatt Trinidad; Jefferson – Cesar Garza; McCollum – Patrick Jauregui; South San – Adam Rodriguez; Southwest – John Eric Cortez, Javier Salinas.

West

Burbank – Andy Morales, Eduardo Salas; Edison – Zach Garcia, Seth Henry, John Martinez; Harlandale – Michael Agis, Nikolas Martinez; Highlands – Juan Diaz, Richard Gonzalez, Antero Perez.

SOFTBALL: Difficult loss helps give Wiatrek clarity on college choice

East Central softball all-stater/cheerleader/valedictorian Kirsten Wiatrek
East Central softball all-stater/cheerleader/valedictorian Kirsten Wiatrek

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Coaches ask their teams to learn from a loss.
What Kirsten Wiatrek learned from East Central’s last defeat in arguably the school’s best softball season blindsided her like a safety blitz. In fact, in ways yet to be revealed, it may have changed the course of her life.
When the Hornets lost their area-round game to Smithson Valley, and whose 2013 season continues in the Region IV finals, it wasn’t the margin of the 17-2 defeat that stung Wiatrek. What stunned the Hornets’ captain and all-state center fielder most was her unpredictable reaction to it.
“It was difficult to decide,” Wiatrek said, referring to the choice between playing collegiate softball or devoting that time to academics. “It was strange but, once we lost that playoff game, I had a sense of relief.
“I kept thinking that, if I was going to keep playing softball, I shouldn’t feel this way.”
At the time, the senior was mulling whether to accept a softball scholarship offer from St. Mary’s University. The message East Central’s valedictorian gleaned from the experience was that it was time to end her playing career.
Wiatrek decided instead to attend the University of the Incarnate Word. If she competes for the Cardinals, it won’t be on the diamond but in the classroom and possibly in cheerleading competitions.
She will major in pharmacy at UIW. It’s an academic path she couldn’t follow at St. Mary’s, a factor which complicated the decision.
“Academics, right now, is the game plan,” Wiatrek said. “I’m an early admit in pre-pharmacy. In two years, I’ll be able to enter the School of Pharmacy.
“I was really torn. The scholarship offer St. Mary’s gave me was really generous. It was hard knowing I was going to walk away from softball. But as much as I loved it, I also hated it.”
After 14 years of softball in one form or another, Wiatrek explained that she enjoyed the games much more than the practices. She also understood that college softball would require a much greater time commitment than the sport had at East Central.
“Everyone tells me that softball is like a job in college,” Wiatrek said. “With what I’ll be doing academically in college, softball really isn’t an option. If you’re not going to a (major college), you really have to love softball to play in college. I had my time with it, but I really had to walk away.”
When she was a freshman and sophomore at East Central, Wiatrek thought a legal profession might be her calling. So, when St. Mary’s came through with the offer of a softball scholarship, it reawakened her interest in that field and she entertained the idea of becoming a pre-law major.
Therefore, she was not only hamstrung between two catholic universities, but two completely different academic courses – both extremely challenging and involving.
“I probably would have walked-on at Incarnate Word,” Wiatrek said, referring to playing without a scholarship. “I wasn’t pursuing a softball scholarship until St. Mary’s wanted me. I was considering cheerleading in college.”
While East Central softball coach Bryan Waller supports Wiatrek’s decision, he knows that she was capable of performing well at the college level.
“I think she’d definitely do a great job,” Waller said, “if she had chosen St. Mary’s under Coach (Donna) Fields. I think she would be successful in whatever she chooses to do in life. Kirsten is one girl who, when she sets her mind to it, she gets it done.”
The EC alumna has everything it takes to have a great experience at UIW, according to her former softball coach.
“I see her doing exceptionally well,” Waller said, referring to Wiatrek’s academic potential. “She’s already accepted into pharmacy school there, so she has that lined up. Incarnate Word was where she had to go, because it’s one of the best for her career.”
Wiatrek plans to enter the six-year pharmacy program in her junior year. She plans to attend UIW as both a undergrad and graduate student.
“I was kind of burnt out from practicing three to four hours a day every day,” Wiatrek said of softball. “I sympathize with most high school seniors. It was time to give it up.”
Fortunately for her, there were bigger and better opportunities on the not-too-distant horizon because of an admirable track record in high school.

BOYS BASKETBALL: Thornton takes hoop dreams to California

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Sam Houston senior Isaac Thornton has accepted a scholarship offer from San Jose State University, the school’s website reported May 3.

Thornton, a Class 3A all-state player, averaged 17.5 points and 7.3 rebounds while leading the Hurricanes to the Region IV finals. He was selected as the District 28-3A most valuable player as a junior and as a senior at Sam Houston.

“I was trying to keep all my options open,” Thornton said, “but when they came forward with an opportunity and I examined it a little more, I knew that’s where I had to be.”

The 6-foot-3, 180-pound senior was an Express-News all-area selection this year.

“Isaac embodies everything I want in a student-athlete,” first-year SJSU coach David Wojcik said in a statement on the San Jose, Calif. school’s website. “He is a terrific person, student and basketball player. He is a very athletic and skilled guard who is able to score with his jump shot or take it to the basket.

“Isaac will represent the San Jose State basketball program, the university and the community exceptionally well. I am delighted that Isaac will be a part of the San Jose State family.”

Wojcik said he began recruiting Thornton on the recommendation of his friend Tim Littlefield, athletic director at the Gervin Academy.

Littlefield had recommended Warren High grad and Tulsa University standout Ben Uzoh to Wojcik when he was an associate head coach there. Uzoh has had three stints in the NBA since leaving Tulsa in 2010.

“Tim and I reached out to each other,” Wojcik said. “He told me about Isaac and recommended him. I flew to San Antonio and watched Isaac’s workout. Then one thing led to another.”

Thornton is the sixth player to sign with San Jose State for the 2013-14 season. SJSU is a NCAA Division I school which currently competes in the Western Athletic Conference along with the University of Texas-San Antonio. The Spartans will officially join the Mountain West Conference July 1.

BOYS BASKETBALL: Sam Houston takes step forward to Region IV championship game

Alamo Heights proves big obstacle for Lanier

Boys basketball
Sam Houston

The Hurricanes (21-7) advanced a step further than in 2010-11 and 2011-12, but their season came to an end last Saturday afternoon in the Region IV championship game.
Sam Houston lost 69-58 to Brookshire Royal (29-9), from the Houston area. If the senior-laden Hurricanes had won, they would have advanced to the Class 3A state tournament.
Sam Houston has not qualified for state since 2004-5, when it won the Class 4A title.
“They put their stamp on it,” Hurricanes coach Issac Thornton said, referring to the impact his seniors had on the program. “I wasn’t at Sam Houston during the glory days, but they always had a lot of size and big players. These guys were able to do it with a different style of play.
“They put their mark on it.”
The loss in the title game stung a bit because Sam Houston wasn’t able to put its best foot forward, because junior point guard Jordon Harris had a severe asthma attack and two other players were held out of the game.
Harris helped the Hurricanes establish a 19-8 lead in the first quarter, but wasn’t able to play much longer because of asthma.
“They came out in a zone, which played into our hands,” Thornton said, “Then they made adjustments. Jordon didn’t play much at all and we had a couple that didn’t play for disciplinary reasons, so we were up against it.
“Jordon started, but as the game went on, we had to take him out. Jordon usually gets us into our offense, so without him, we sputtered.”
Royal pulled away with a 29-4 run in the second quarter to take a 37-25 halftime lead at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi. The Falcons got some of the Hurricanes’ key players in foul trouble and made their first 17 free throws to get separation from Sam Houston.
They finished the game having made 30 of 37 free throws. By contrast, the Hurricanes were 11 of 15.
“The free-throw line was the difference in the game,” Thornton said. “I know we play aggressively and commit more fouls than most teams, but I didn’t think there was that much of a difference. They played an aggressive man-to-man, too.
“But we didn’t adjust to the way the game was called and that got us out of our game. They’re a good team, and we we had a lot of things working against us that we couldn’t overcome.”
Seniors Terrance Winkfield (15 points), Terrence Washington (14) and Isaac Thornton (9), the coach’s son, were the Hurricanes’ three leading scorers. Each of them was in foul trouble in the first half and fouled out in the fourth quarter.
Sam Houston outscored the Falcons 13-10 in the third quarter and closed within five points in the fourth quarter, but Royal’s free-throw shooting kept it out of trouble. The Falcons were led by Wesley Wilson with 25 points, 20 of them from the free-throw stripe.
“We cut it to five and then there was a crucial play,” coach Thornton said. “They called an over-and-back when our guy was clearly pushed across halfcourt.”
In the semifinals, Sam Houston avenged a loss to West Oso (13-21)that ended their season a year earlier. This time, they defeated the Bears 60-40. The win extended the Hurricanes’ winning streak to 13 games and ended the Bears’ 12-game streak.
The Hurricanes had a run of 16 unanswered points that started midway through the first quarter. With West Oso ahead 6-2, Washington (20 points) sank a three-pointer off an inbounds pass to start the run, which was fed by five Hurricanes steals. Sam Houston led 35-23 at halftime, forcing 20 turnovers in that span.
“Our pressure bothered them,” Thornton said. “Their ballhandlers weren’t that strong, although they had a strong player inside.”
Isaac Thornton and Winkfield each scored 10 points for the Hurricanes. Harris contributgd nine points.. West Oso was led by Davon Fox with 20.
“We didn’t handle the win that well, and that’s part of being a good team –the ability to handle winning,” Thornton said. “I would have expected us to handle it a lot better.”
Sam Houston thoroughly dominated its regional quatrerfinal game against a Fredericksburg team that was playing in that round for the third time in four years. The Hurricanes made 14 of 25 three-point baskets, propelling them to a 90-63 win over the Battlin’ Billies (24-11) at Boerne Champion.
The three-point barrage began in the first quarter, when senior Richard Nation (12 points) knocked one down from the left wing to give Sam Houston an 8-2 lead. Nation made four of five from long distance during the game.
“He’s played a tremendous role for us,” Thornton said. “He’s a first-year varsity player. We had some guys not playing earlier (for disciplinary reasons). So he stepped into that role, and when they came back, he held it.”
In a dazzling display, the Hurricanes made 13 of their first 17 shots from three-point range. At that stage, Sam Houston led 74-29 with 1:27 left in the third quarter.
“We did a good job moving the ball around,” Isaac Thornton said. “We were able to get a lot of open (jumpers) and we just knocked them down.”
Sam Houston’s lead reached 19-7 as the first quarter ended after Thornton (16 points, 11 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocked shots) and Harris (18 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals) turned consecutive steals into fast-break layups.
A steal and dunk by Harris made it 42-21 and the Hurricanes led 48-22 at halftime after Harris set up Nation for another three-pointer from the left wing. They had expanded the lead to 75-45 by the end of the third quarter.
“We broke down defensively in the second half,” Isaac Thornton said, “but (Fredericksburg coach Tim Kaman) is a heck of a coach, so I knew he’d make adjustments. Because we’re experienced, it didn’t throw us.
“I’m proud of the way the guys played. They were unselfish and were hitting the open man.”
Washington finished with 14 points and four rebounds. Winkfield (3 assists, 2 steals) scored nine of his 11 points in the fourth quarter to put all five starters in double figures. Senior Myron Knight made a pair of three-pointers off the bench and finished with seven points.
“It’s been fantastic,” Isaac Thornton said after the Fredericksburg game. “Since freshman year, we’ve been focused on going to state. We wanted to show people we could do it.
“I think we’re more together this year. We’re playing more as a unit and we have a lot of experience. That’s been helping us. We’re bringing the tradition back to Sam Houston that was there before.”
Sam Houston will return five players from its postseason roster – Harris, junior Brandon Seals, sophomore post Devin Allen, sophomore Myles Thornton (Thornton’s son), freshman Dwayne Brown and freshman Brandon Vargas.
“Those guys will all play key roles for us next year,” Thornton said. “We also had an outstanding freshman group, and those are actually different type of players. They’re very athletic and much more disciplined, on and off the court. I’m looking forward to next year.”
Lanier
The road came to an end for the Voks (29-6) Feb. 26 in the Class 4A Region IV quarterfinals against a supersized Alamo Heights team. Lanier was aiming to qualify for the regional semifinals for the third-straight year.
Lanier held a 21-17 halftime lead over Alamo Heights (31-3), but scored just 13 second-half points. The Mules put together a 13-1 run in the third quarter and went on to win 50-34.
The Voks forced nine turnovers in the first half to gain the upper hand. Lanier senior Joe Luis Gonzales scored all of his team-high 11 points before halftime. Senior Martin Sanchez added 10 points. Junior Ajax Reyes scored seven.
For Alamo Heights, the Mules’ 6-foot-10 junior center Ben Lammers finished with 13 points, 20 rebounds and six blocked shots.
Alamo Heights eliminated Lanier for the second-consecutive year. The Mules won 72-58 last year in the regional semifinals.

BOYS BASKETBALL: Hurricanes eyeing third district title, extended playoff run

Boys basketball
Sam Houston

The Hurricanes (9-6, 1-0) began District 28-3A play last Friday with a punishing 116-22 victory over Hawkins (0-1).
Sam Houston has its sights set on a third-consecutive district title, and a little bit more this season. After being eliminated in the Class 3A Region IV semifinals each of the last two years, the Hurricanes aren’t shy about their aspirations to take their success under coach Ike Thornton another step or two further.
“Our goal, and it’s critical, is that we’ve been two games from going downstate the last two years,” Thornton said. “We haven’t been able to figure it out, what we need to take that next step. But we’ve been there twice now, and we’re not coming back to do the same thing again.”
Despite being without some key players and taking some lumps against larger schools earlier in the year, the Hurricanes were No. 4 in the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Class 3A state poll.
“I’ve said all year that they’re one of the 10 best teams in the city,” Central Catholic coach Romy Vela said after a 73-55 loss Dec. 21 at Sam Houston. “I can’t believe they’re not ranked. They have a great team. They’re very athletic. They have two or three guys that can bring the ball up, they can shoot, they have an inside game and they play good defense.”
Sam Houston lost a tough game to Churchill (22-3), No. 5 in the Express-News area rankings, 66-63 Jan. 8 at the Chargers’ gym. The Chargers also are ranked No. 14 in the TABC Class 5A state poll.
Senior Isaac Thornton, one of the coach’s two sons on the team, led the Hurricanes with 28 points against Churchill. He contributes inside and outside scoring, along with a calming presence as the team’s leader.
“He’s having a huge type of year,” the elder Thornton said. “He’s a great leader. He’s basically been running practices. It’s great to have a player like that.”
Junior Jordon Harris added 13. The guard has been a marked man by opposing defenses, but is capable of big scoring outputs in his third year as a starter.
“He can be explosive,” Thornton said. “Jordon’s a really good player. He and Isaac have been basically carrying the team. He was really needed on varsity as a freshman, so he has it in him.”
Terrance Winkfield, a veteran who recently rejoined the team after being suspended for disciplinary reasons, also hit double figures with 10 points.
Thornton scored 26 against Hawkins. Sophomore post Devin Allen scored 19. At 6-4, 175 pounds, Allen plays with explosiveness that belies his size, and his development has been a key for the Hurricanes.
“Devin has stepped up,” Thornton said. “We knew we needed a three-headed monster (in scoring), and he’s giving us that. Even though he played last year, he didn’t play a whole lot. He’s got a very unique game. He’s got finesse – he can handle the ball and shoot the three – but he can also score in the post.”
The Hurricanes have gotten a pair of big boosts in the depth department in the last month.
Terrance Washington, who rejoined the team in mid-December after his disciplinary suspension was lifted, provided 17 points.
“He earned his way back by staying focused and working hard,” Thornton said of Washington after the Central Catholic game. “He’s still very rusty, but his presence means a lot.”
Winkfield scored 16 and Brandon Seals had 10 against Hawkins.
“We had eight players coming back from last year,” Thornton said before Winkfield returned, “but four of those guys haven’t played. When they do what they need to do, we’ll bring them back and it’ll make us a much stronger team. They’ve all played in two regional semifinals.”
One area Sam Houston will look to shore up as the season heats up is its trademark full-court pressure defense.
“We should be fine in our district,” Thornton said. “I’m not underestimating any of our district opponents, but we should be fine. We’ll come in as, easily, the district favorite. We’ll need to use the district season to pretty much hit on all cylinders. We’re nowhere near that. We’re probably in second gear now.”
Of course, he said that before Christmas. The Hurricanes seem to be revving up a bit at this time.

BOYS BASKETBALL: Voks run subdues Sam Houston in battle of titans

SPORTS ROUNDUP

Boys basketball

Lanier 58, Sam Houston 48

The host team took control of this battle of two of the area’s best teams last Saturday afternoon at the Lanier Alumni Center with an 13-2 run in that spanned the second and third quarters.

Lanier senior Martin Sanchez scored nine points in the run, starting with a pair of free throws that forged a 20-20 tie for the Voks (15-2)with 59.4 seconds remaining in the first half. Following a steal from Fred Rosales, Sanchez (26 points) also notched a driving layup 8.4 seconds before the half to give Lanier a lead it never surrendered on the Nemo Herrera Court.

The Hurricanes (5-5) had taken a 20-16 lead with 2:06 left in the second quarter with a layup from Devin Allen (8 points). Sam Houston played most of the game without junior guard Jordon Harris, who picked up his third foul early in the second quarter and his fourth with 2:17 left in the third.

Sam Houston never was closer than eight points after Lanier’s decisive run.

A free throw from Isaac Thornton (23 points) put the Hurricanes within 37-27 after three quarters. Harris returned at the start of the fourth and hit a long three-pointer that cut the deficit to nine. Baskets by Rosales and Sanchez, off a steal made it 43-30. Sam Houston answered with a three-point possession when Thornton split a pair of free throws, rebounded the miss and put in a layup.

Sanchez answered with a three-pointer off a bounce pass from junior point guard Louis Garza. Sam Houston pulled within 48-38 on a three-pointer and a driving layup from Harris (15 points), the former off an assist from Richard Nation. Sanchez converted a one-and-one and Thornton scored off a rebound to maintain the margin.

A clever left-handed layup from Rodrigo Garcia increased Lanier’s lead to 53-42 with 3:05 remaining, which enabled the Voks to spread the floor.

Jose Luis Gonzales scored 13 points for Lanier. Sanchez raised his season scoring average to 25.2 points a game.

SOFTBALL: Holy Cross’ dream season ends in region round

By Mike Considine

For the second-consecutive year, Holy Cross (23-15-2) established a new standard for its program.

The Knights’ season ended Monday, just shy of the TAPPS Class 4A final four. Fort Bend Christian (25-13) of Sugar Land shut out Holy Cross 6-0 in a region-round game at Texas A&M.

Eagles pitcher Elizabeth Fox limited the Knights to one hit. Holy Cross had scored 13 runs in its previous playoff game.

Fort Bend Christian scored four runs in the third inning and their last two runs in the fourth. The Eagles finished with nine hits.

Holy Cross won the season-opening SAISD Tournament and finished second in the TAPPS 3-4A district tournament.

BASEBALL & SOFTBALL: Senior-led Edison pushes Tivy to brink in 7-6 bi-district loss

Southwest softball bows to New Braunfels Canyon in marquee area series

THIS STORY CONTAINS INFO ABOUT: Edison baseball, Central Catholic baseball and Southwest softball.

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By Mike Considine

Baseball

Edison

The Golden Bears (15-15) , the No. 3 seed from District 29-4A, went out like the senior-dominated team they are.

Edison tied the score twice in the early going and rallied for three runs in the seventh Friday at SAISD Field No. 1, but couldn’t extend their Class 4A bi-district series to the limit. Kerrvillle Tivy handed Edison a heart-breaking loss 7-6.

The Golden Bears tied it 2-2 in the bottom of the third inning. Edison also responded in the fourth after the Antlers had broken the tie for a 3-2 lead in the top of the inning. But Tivy again took a one-run lead in the fifth and added three more runs in the top of the seventh.

Edison rallied for three runs of its own to close within a run in the bottom of the inning, but couldn’t score the equalizer. Tivy took the lead on an unearned run.

Kerrville Tivy won the opening game in the best-of-three series 6-0 Thursday in Kerrville.

Antlers pitcher Payeton Becker shut out the Golden Bears, allowing four hits.

Tivy, which had 11 hits, never looked back after scoring three runs in the bottom of the first inning in Kerrville. The Antlers increased their lead to 4-0 in the fifth and scored twice in the sixth.

Central Catholic

The Buttons (22-9-1) ended their season last Wednesday with a 6-3 loss at Houston St. Thomas (26-6) in the TAPPS Class 5A area round.

St. Thomas is coached by former Houston Astros all-star Craig Biggio.

Rawlings Elam, Greg Hoffman and Cavan Biggio, the coach’s son, all had two hits for the Eagles. Hunter Pallasch hit a home run and drove in three runs.

Softball

Southwest

New Braunfels Canyon (31-5) closed out the Class 5A area-round battle of two of the best teams in the metroplex, defeating the Dragons (31-7) 8-6 Friday at Southwest.

Canyon, No. 2 in the Express-News area rankings, staked out an eight-run lead in the first five innings behind senior pitcher Marilee Burge. The Cougars took the lead with help from a solo home run by Bianca Prada and a four-run outburst in the fifth.

They had to hold off a furious rally by the Dragons, who seldom lose on their home field, thereafter. No. 4 Southwest began its comeback with senior shortstop Miranda Medina’s 10th home run of the season in the sixth inning.

Trailing 8-2, the Dragons got another home run from catcher Gabby Flores in the seventh. Consecutive doubles from Amanda Sanchez and Elizabeth Phillips, followed by a run-scoring Canyon error brought Southwest within three runs. Freshman Caitlin Terrazas added another run with a two-out, RBI single.

Canyon ended the game on a ground out.

In Game 1, Canyon made it tough on Southwest early. They put up six of seven runs in the bottom of the first.

The Dragons narrowed the gap a bit with single runs in the second and third innings, but Canyon added an insurance run in the bottom of the third. Southwest scored its last two runs in the sixth..

The loss ended Southwest’s five-game winning streak.

SOFTBALL: Holy Cross on cusp of TAPPS state semifinals

By Mike Considine

It was a bold move for TAPPS Class 4A team Holy Cross to schedule tough Class 5A teams like Johnson and Steele earlier this year.

The benefit of facing that level of competition may have been hard to visualize when the Knights were being shut out by lopsided scores. It’s crystal clear now.

Holy Cross (23-14-2) will play Fort Bend Christian (24-13) from Sugar Land 7 p.m. tonight in the TAPPS 4A region round. If they Knights win the game at Texas A&M, they’ll advance to the state semifinals.

“It’s pretty cool stuff,” Holy Cross coach Angel Cedillo said. “The girls have had a good year. We’ve played pretty good teams and been pushed a lot. They’ve learned a lot. Playing that kind of competition is going to either break your spirit, or you’re going to get better.

“In our district, the only team we couldn’t beat was Victoria St. Joseph. We lost to them 3-1 and 5-1, and they were district champions.”

The Knights are the last remaining area baseball or softball squad in the 2013 season week of the playoffs.

“I’m very proud of the progress the team has been making,” Cedillo said. “We’re excited to be playing in the college environment.”

To prepare his team for the crowd and the atmosphere, Cedillo has compared Holy Cross’ chances to those of Milan, Ind. in the movie “Hoosiers.”

In fact, he’s even referenced the tape measure scene, where the team’s coach measures the height of the baskets to reinforce to the players that playing there won’t really be any different than it would be in their home gym.

Of course, the girls had never seen or heard about the movie.

“I tell the seniors that, although they’ve never been there, you can’t take away the things they’ve learned this year,” Cedillo said. “They’re going to be excited, but we want it to be fun.

“We want them to be excited, but we don’t want it to get the best of them.”

Holy Cross is anchored by a core of players that established their playoff credentials last year. It defeated Argyle Liberty Christian 2-1 in the postseason opener before falling 3-1 to Houston St. Pius X in the area round as a Class 5A team.

The Knights have only offered softball for a seven years. Cedillo is in his third season as coach and Holy Cross has only been playing on campus the last two years.

Holy Cross recently played host to its first on-campus playoff game. The Knights have not played since that game, in which they defeated Houston Northland Christian 13-1 April 27 in the area round.

The Knights took control of that game early, scoring 11 runs in the first two innings.

“Coach Ernie Garcia has been with us since the beginning,” Cedillo said of his batting coach. “Our offense has been very, very spotty at times. But in this game, we were hitting very, very well.

“We played a warmup game against Harper, and it wasn’t our best showing. I actually canceled practice the day before the game.”

Cedillo confessed that he used the ploy to make sure his team was in the right frame of mind for the Northland Christian game.

“They looked at me like I was possessed,” he said, “but it helped. It was a 3 p.m. game and they were supposed to (report) at 1 p.m. But when I got there at 12:30, they were already dressed to play. They came out (in the game) and started hitting and running.”

Holy Cross was coming off a second-place finish in the TAPPS 3-4A district tournament. The Knights won their first two games by substantial margins, defeating Corpus Christi Incarnate Word 10-0 and Austin Domenic Savio 12-2. They lost 5-1 to St. Joseph in the title game.

The Knights are experienced team with several seniors playing key roles.

Nicole Gomez is a key offensive player at first base, Brianna Casillas is a defensive standout at second baseman and Sabrina Casas is a converted infielder who has filled a hole in right field. Gomez leads the team wth a whopping 48 RBIs.

“We have some seniors who are fine leaders and strong people,” Cedillo said. “We have three seniors (Gomez, Casillas and Casas) who’ve been with us since freshman year. They stepped up last year.”

Senior Marisa Hernandez (11-3) shares pitching duties with junior Julia Ibarra, when she’s not patrolling center field. Another senior, Gabby Lopez, has taken over at designated hitter and relieved Hernandez of her hitting duties.

“Marisa does two things for us already,” Cedillo said. “Gabby has been contributing by giving us big at-bats for Marisa. She has done a great job in that role.”

Among the underclassmen, Ibarra (12-10) is the team’s primary pitcher and sophomore Marisol Ortega is a defensive wizard at shortstop. Ortega was all-district as a freshman. Ibarra authored the shutout of Incarnate word and limited Northland Christian to two hits.

“Julia throws about 70 percent of the games and she bats second,” Cedillo said. “We just give her the ball and see what she can do that day. We have play good defense, if they want to bunt her. We work hard at it. We take a lot of pride in our defense, and it’s really worked out.”

Despite the long break between games, Holy Cross seems to have kept its edge.

“We’ve had really, really good practices,” Cedillo said. “Fort Bend Christian is a good ballclub. They’ve been whupping the people they’ve played (in the postseason).”

Cedillo wanted the team to get the experience of playing at a college facility. Although he wasn’t thrilled about the day of the week they’ll be playing on, the exposure to a top-flight environment was the over-riding concern for the sake of building the program.

“We tried to find middle ground,” Cedillo said. “This was one of our options. I don’t like to play on Monday. No coach likes to play Monday, but it was the only day the college program has off.”

Fort Bend Christian will be a formidable opponent.

“They have a good pitcher and catcher,” Cedillo said. “Their pitcher throws the ball really well and she keeps the ball where it needs to be thrown. Their strength is that they’re so utterly solid.

“Our kids know what they need to do. It’s execution. We have to have a little of that. It’s going to come down to which team executes more effectively.”

After a strong showing in the playoffs last year and great performances to date in the postseason this year, the Knights coach believes his team is ready for the challenge.

“We want the girls to get after them,” Cedillo said. “They’re excited, and they really want to be there. We’re one step away from the Final Four.

“They’re close, and they’re good enough to get there. It’s just a matter of believing it themselves.”

BASEBALL: Burbank falls short despite late rally against Hays

By Mike Considine

FOR A FULL STORY ON THE BURBANK-HAYS BASEBALL PLAYOFF SERIES (May 3-4, 2013), click here:

http://www.mysanantonio.com/default/article/Burbank-boys-fall-to-Hays-in-playoffs-4492369.php

Senior center fielder Nick Canas had his best game of the season, but the Bulldogs (13-16) couldn’t quite catch Hays (19-9) Friday in Buda.

The Rebels scored three runs in the first inning and swept the best-of-three Class 4A bi-district series against Burbank. The Bulldogs were eliminated with a 9-7 loss.

“I think, if we could have gotten to a third game,” Burbank coach Romeo Barrera said, “I would have liked our chances. They ended up bringing in their ace in the seventh inning, after he had pitched the night before. So, obviously, they had a sense of urgency.”

Canas had three hits in his final game, all for extra bases. The senior hit a solo home run in the second inning that brought Burbank within 3-1. He also belted a double and a triple to drive in three runs.

The Bulldogs scored in the fifth inning and manufactured a five-run rally in the sixth. Unfortunately for Burbank, the combustible Rebels had produced another big rally by then.

Hays increased its lead to 8-1 in the fourth inning. Burbank cut it to 8-7 in the top of the sixth, but Hays added an insurance run in the bottom of the inning.

The Bulldogs weren’t able to score in their last at-bat against Hays reliever Tyler Woodmansee, who had limited the Bulldogs to five hits while striking out 10 in Game 1.

Burbank starting pitcher Andy Morales drove in two runs. Fellow senior Eduardo Salas also collected an RBI.

Bulldogs sophomore catcher Conrad Perez drew three walks and senior Matt Ramirez walked twice.

Hays took the lead early in both games of the series. The Rebels pulled away to a 10-1 victory in the series opener at SAISD Field No. 1 Thursday.

“They’ve got a pretty good mix of kids,” Barrera said of Hays’ offense. “They have some little guys and some power hitters. They’re a pretty solid team. Their ace is pretty ‘lights out.’ ”

The Rebels scored in the first inning on a sacrifice fly from Dalton Niles, which followed a double from Texas State signee Granger Studdard (2-for-2). Hays tacked on two more runs in the third, on an RBI triple from J.C. Cerda and a second sacrifice fly from Niles.

A grand slam home run by Studdard helped Hays build an 8-0 lead in the sixth. Hays outhit Burbank 8-5.

Back-to-back triples by Adrian Acosta and Justin Montana in the top of the seventh led to two more Hays runs.

Burbank got on the board in its half of the last inning. Junior Jonathan Alanis drove in the run. Sophomore Arturo Martinez led the Bulldogs with two hits. Morales stole two bases.

The Bulldogs had won their previous three games.

WEEKEND SPORTS ROUNDUP: McCollum loss ends year for local baseball teams

Holy Cross softball only area team still alive in playoffs

By Mike Considine

And then there was one.

Holy Cross’ softball squad is the last local team standing after the second week of the playoffs. Six area UIL baseball teams were eliminated in the bi-district round and Central Catholic lost in the TAPPS area round, all in the first week.

McCollum was the last surviving baseball team.

The Cowboys had lost their Class 4A best-of-three series opener to Gregory-Portland Thursday and trailed from the bottom of the first inning Saturday on the way to a 12-2 loss at the Corpus Christi area school.

Holy Cross (23-14-2) will play Fort Bend Christian (24-13) from Sugar Land 7 p.m. Monday in the TAPPS 4A region round. If they Knights win the game at Texas A&M, they’ll advance to the state semifinals.

Baseball

McCollum

Gregory-Portland (23-7-1) wrested the lead from McCollum (22-6) in the bottom of the first inning of their Class 4A bi-district game Saturday. The Cowboys had scored in the top half of the inning.

The Wildcats were playing longball in Game 2 of the series. Blake Harmon and Mickie Erwin hit home runs. Erwin’s was an inside-the-park shot. Ruben Martinez hit a bases-loaded triple in the fifth that ended the game due to the 10-run rule.

Gregory-Portland won the first game 10-4 Thursday at the Frank Tejeda Complex.

Senior Jonathan Arevalo led the Cowboys in Game 1 with two hits. Patrick Jauregui contributed a two-run triple to McCollum’s sixth-inning rally. Freshman Rafael Ramirez and junior Ryan Villalobos also drove in runs.

`McCollum stats from Saturday’s game were unavailable.

South San

The Bobcats (17-15) ended their season with a classic pitcher’s duel between O’Connor’s Mark Ecker, one of the area’s best, and underrated South San senior Joseph Valle.

O’Connor (25-4), No. 1 in the Express-News area rankings, escaped with a 1-0 victory in the Class 5A bi-district game at Burrows-Gustafson Stadium. The Panthers scored in the third inning. Daniel Cruz hit a double in the inning and Gavin Johnson (2-for-2) brought the run home with an RBI double.

Ecker (7-0, 0.98 ERA), a Texas A&M signee, allowed two hits and struck out nine Valle (5-5, 0.98 ERA) scattered eight hits, but he combined with the Bobcats’ defense to strand nine runners and throw out two at home plate.

South San put two runners on base in the fourth inning, after Ecker was hit with a line drive on his right leg. However, the Bobcats were unable to advance them with a bunt and Ecker got out of the jam.

Edison

The Golden Bears (15-15) , the No. 3 seed from District 29-4A, went out like the senior-dominated team they are.

Edison tied the score twice in the early going and rallied for three runs in the seventh Friday at SAISD Field No. 1, but couldn’t extend their Class 4A bi-district series to the limit. Kerrvillle Tivy handed Edison a heart-breaking loss 7-6.

The Golden Bears tied it 2-2 in the bottom of the third inning. Edison also responded in the fourth after the Antlers had broken the tie for a 3-2 lead in the top of the inning. But Tivy again took a one-run lead in the fifth and added three more runs in the top of the seventh.

Edison rallied for three runs of its own to close within a run in the bottom of the inning, but couldn’t score the equalizer. Tivy took the lead on an unearned run.

Kerrville Tivy won the opening game in the best-of-three series 6-0 Thursday in Kerrville.

Burbank

Senior center fielder Nick Canas had his best game of the season, but the Bulldogs (13-16) couldn’t quite catch Hays (19-9) Friday in Buda.

The Rebels scored three runs in the first inning and swept the best-of-three series against Burbank. The Bulldogs were eliminated with a 9-7 loss.

“I think, if we could have gotten to a third game,” Burbank coach Romeo Barrera said, “I would have liked our chances. They ended up bringing in their ace in the seventh inning, after he had pitched the night before. So, obviously, they had a sense of urgency.”

Canas had three hits in his final game, all for extra bases. The senior hit a solo home run in the second inning that brought Burbank within 3-1. He also belted a double and a triple to drive in three runs.

The Bulldogs scored in the fifth inning and manufactured a five-run rally in the sixth. Unfortunately for Burbank, the combustible Rebels had produced another big rally by then.

Hays increased its lead to 8-1 in the fourth inning. Burbank cut it to 8-7 in the top of the sixth, but Hays added an insurance run in the bottom of the inning.

The Bulldogs weren’t able to score in their last at-bat against Hays reliever Tyler Woodmansee, who had limited the Bulldogs to five hits while striking out 10 in Game 1.

Burbank starting pitcher Andy Morales drove in two runs. Fellow senior Eduardo Salas also collected an RBI.

Bulldogs sophomore catcher Conrad Perez drew three walks and senior Matt Ramirez walked twice.

bottom of the seventh inning of their bi-district series opener at SAISD Field No. 1 Thursday.

Hays took the lead in the best-of-three series with a 10-1victory.

The Rebels scored in the first inning and tacked on two more runs in the third. A grand slam home run from Texas State signee Granger Studdard helped Hays build an 8-0 lead in the sixth. Hays outhit Burbank 8-5.

The Bulldogs had won their previous three games.

Harlandale

The Indians (13-13) rallied to within two runs of Victoria East (26-13) Friday at Riverside Stadium in Victoria, but the Titans prevailed 8-2 on their home field.

Harlandale strung together five consecutive hits with two outs in the third inning of the one-game Class 4A bi-district playoff. The two-run rally made the score 4-2 in Victoria East’s favor.

The Indians weren’t able to score again, despite nearly matching their hosts in hits. The Titans had eight hits against Harlandale ace Michael Agis (9-1, 0.51 ERA). Harlandale finished with seven hits.

Victoria East went to the bullpen after the Indians’ big inning. Relief pitcher Kyle Craft put up 4 1/3 scoreless innings in relief, while striking out 10.

The Titans had success with a patient plate approach against Agis, who struck out seven. They had baserunners in each inning. After taking the lead with four runs in the second, they scored two runs in both the fifth and sixth innings to assure the win.

Highlands

The Owls (8-18) managed five hits against District 27-4A champion Clemens (20-8) and its ace pitcher, J.J. Elkins, at SAISD Field No. 2 Friday.

The Buffaloes won 13-0 in the one-game playoff. They produced three big innings, scoring three runs in the second, four in the fourth and ending the game with six in the fifth.

Garrett Kizer hit a home run for Clemens. The Buffaloes finished with 14 hits.

Highlands had won its final district game and a fourth-place tiebreaker to reach the playoffs.

Central Catholic

The Buttons (22-10-1) ended their season last Wednesday with a 6-3 loss at Houston St. Thomas (26-6) in the TAPPS Class 5A area round.

St. Thomas is coached by former Houston Astros all-star Craig Biggio. Rawlings Elam, Greg Hoffman and Cavan Biggio, the coach’s son, all had two hits for the Eagles. Hunter Pallasch hit a home run and drove in three runs.

Softball

Southwest

New Braunfels Canyon (31-5) closed out the Class 5A area-round battle of two of the best teams in the metroplex, defeating the Dragons (31-7) 8-6 Friday at Southwest.

Canyon, No. 2 in the Express-News area rankings, staked out an eight-run lead in the first five innings behind senior pitcher Marilee Burge. The Cougars took the lead with help from a solo home run by Bianca Prada and a four-run outburst in the fifth.

They had to hold off a furious rally by the Dragons, who seldom lose on their home field, thereafter. No. 4 Southwest began its comeback with senior shortstop Miranda Medina’s 10th home run of the season in the sixth inning.

Trailing 8-2, the Dragons got another home run from catcher Gabby Flores in the seventh. Consecutive doubles from Amanda Sanchez and Elizabeth Phillips, followed by a run-scoring Canyon error brought Southwest within three runs. Freshman Caitlin Terrazas added another run with a two-out, RBI single.

Canyon ended the game on a ground out.

BOYS BASKETBALL: Thornton takes hoop dreams to California

Sam Houston senior Isaac Thornton has accepted a scholarship offer from San Jose State University, the school’s website reported Friday. Thornton, a Class 3A all-state player, averaged 17.5 points and 7.3 rebounds while leading the Hurricanes to the Region IV finals. He was selected as the District 28-3A most valuable player as a junior and as a senior at Sam Houston.

He was an Express-News all-area selection this year.

“Isaac embodies everything I want in a student-athlete,” first-year SJSU coach Dave Wojcik said in a statement on the San Jose, Calif. school’s website. “He is a terrific person, student and basketball player. He is a very athletic and skilled guard who is able to score with his jump shot or take it to the basket.

“Isaac will represent the San Jose State basketball program, the university and the community exceptionally well. I am delighted that Isaac will be a part of the San Jose State family.”

Thornton is the third player to sign with San Jose State for the 2013-14 season. SJSU is a NCAA Division I school which currently competes in the Western Athletic Conference along with the University of Texas-San Antonio.

Local teams blanked on cold, cold night

Five area teams need a win tonight to continue seasons

By Mike Considine

The band Three Dog Night took its name from the Australian expression for an extremely chilly night. That was literally and figuratively what three area baseball teams and two local softball teams experienced Thursday.

None of the four local teams were winners in the first night of their best-of-three series. Furthermore, East Central’s softball team watched one of the best seasons in the school’s history come to an end.

Softball

Southwest

The Dragons (31-6), No. 4 in the Express-News area rankings, battled a tough New Braunfels Canyon (30-5) team hard before coming up on the short end in New Braunfels.

The second-ranked Cougars won 7-4 in the area-roundseries opener. The series resumes with a 7 p.m. game tonight at Southwest. If the Dragons win, the finale will take place 7 p.m. Saturday at Steele.

Canyon made it tough on Southwest early. They put up six of seven runs in the bottom of the first.

The Dragons narrowed the gap a bit with single runs in the second and third innings, but Canyon added an insurance run in the bottom of the third. Southwest scored its last two runs in the sixth..

Canyon’s Marilee Burge was the winning pitcher. The loss ended Southwest’s five-game winning streak.

East Central

East Central (21-12) found itself facing a deficit it couldn’t overcome not too far into its winner-take-all game against powerhouse Smithson Valley (21-7) Thursday at the Mary Ann Villarreal Complex Field No. 1. The Hornets lost 17-2.

The Rangers, No. 3 in the Express-News rankings, scored three runs in the first on a three-run home run by Celena Massey that rode a 40-mph wind out of the park. They added five in the second for an 8-0. Then they really got rolling.

Smithson Valley put the area-round game out of reach with a nine-run rally in the third, fed by two Hornets errors.

The Hornets scored both of their runs in the fourth inning. Sophomore Haydi Burgarin tripled and score d on an error. Classmate Madison Strunk added an RBI single.

They were limited to four hits by Rangers pitcher Ryan Mergele. Smithson Valley, which won the 2012 Class 4A title, had 15 in extending its winning streak to nine games.

East Central had won seven of its previous eight games. The Hornets advanced to the area round for the second time in three years.

Baseball

Burbank

The Bulldogs (13-15) weren’t able to score until the bottom of the seventh inning of their bi-district series opener at SAISD Field No. 1 Thursday.

Hays (18-9) took the lead in the best-of-three series with a 10-1victory.

The Rebels scored in the first inning and tacked on two more runs in the third. A four-run outburst in the sixth built an 8-0 lead for Hays. Granger Studdard hit a home run for Hays, which outhit Burbank 8-5.

The Bulldogs had won their previous three games.

The series moves to Hays’ home field in Buda for a 7 p.m. game tonight. If the Bulldogs win, the teams will return to the SAISD Complex for a 1 p.m. game Saturday.

Edison

Kerrville Tivy pitcher Payeton Becker shut out the Golden Bears (14-13) in the first game of the best-of-three series. Becker allowed four hits as the Antlers (21-7-1) claimed a 6-0 victory.

Tivy, which had 11 hits, never looked back after scoring three runs in the bottom of the first inning in Kerrville. The Antlers increased their lead to 4-0 in the fifth and scored twice in the sixth.

The Antlers finished with 11 hits.

Edison returns home, looking for the equalizer in the bi-district series. The 7 p.m. game on SAISD Field No. 1 is part of a doubleheader at the complex. Highlands (8-17) will play Clemens (19-8-2) in a winner-take-all game at the same time on Field No. 2.

The final game of the Golden Bears-Tivy series is scheduled for noon Saturday in Kerrville.

McCollum

Gregory-Portland (22-7-1) scored eight runs in the first two innings Thursday at the Frank Tejeda Complex. The fast start helped the Wildcats defeat McCollum (22-5) 10-4 in the first game of a best-of-three series.

The Wildcats scored three runs in the first inning and erupted for five in the second inning, before the Cowboys scored their first run in the bottom of the second. McCollum closed within 8-4 in the sixth, but G-P scored twice in its half of the seventh.

The teams will take the day off Friday. The series resumes at noon Saturday at Gregory-Portland, with the third game to follow it, if necessary.