Dragons’ six-game win streak ends in Region IV finals
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After winning four of their previous five games by one run, San Marcos apparently was ready to break out offensively.
The Rattlers (33-10) turned the tables on Southwest (33-10) Thursday at the Northeast ISD Complex west field, battering the Dragons for nine runs in the first inning. San Marcos, undefeated in the postseason, won 17-7 in Game 1 of the best-of-three Class 5A Region IV final series.
“I guess we weren’t ready for that offense,” Southwest coach Sandy Hernandez said. “They scored 17 runs. I can’t remember the last time anybody scored that many runs against us.
“I told the team, ‘We win together and we lose together.’ We’re going to come out strong tomorrow, that’s for sure.”
San Marcos outhit Southwest 16-6.
The most a Dragons opponent had scored before Thursday was 13 runs, matched by South San March 13 and Eagle Pass on March 15. No team had scored more runs against Southwest since at least 2010.
Southwest will need a win Friday at Mary Ann Villarreal Field No. 1 to extend the series and keep their hopes of reaching the state finals alive. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
San Marcos had only scored in double figures in one of its first six playoff games, defeating Madison 14-4 in the bi-district round. The Dragons, who’ve scored 10 or more runs five times in the postseason, had averaged 10.2 runs in their previous nine playoff games.
“With these two teams, I knew there’d be a lot of offense,” San Marcos coach Catherine Stoughton said. “Victoria (Vasquez, San Marcos’ pitcher) didn’t have her best stuff, but she kept them off balance. We made some plays behind her that helped her shut them down at key times.
“We came out and hit the ball, like we have all year. Our girls were so pumped and so ready. Against a team like Southwest, those early runs helped. We knew we had to keep scoring from the beginning.“
The Dragons took a 2-0 lead in their half of the first inning In front of an overflow crowd.
Southwest senior walked and scored on a wild pitch with two outs. Yanira Fernandez followed with an RBI double from Ciandre Kinere (3-for-3, 3 RBIs) put the Rattlers in the lead.
San Marcos tied it on a two-run home run from Stephanie Marmolejo (3-for-4, 6 RBIs), three batters into their order. A two-run double from home run, straightaway left on 3-1 pitch.
They produced five doubles among their seven hits in the first inning. Marmolejo came up again in the inning and crunched a two-run double that made it 9-2.
“When Stephanie hit the ball out of here,” Stoughton said, “the girls really knew our momentum shifted. It really gave them confidence.”
The Rattlers scored three more runs in the second, fueled by three walks and two hits. The Dragons had to fight to keep their deficit under 10 runs thereafter.
San Marcos, which equaled its season-high of 17 runs for the third time this season, scored at least two runs in each inning. It was the second 17-run outing in the Rattlers’ current ninth-consecutive game.
Southwest alternated Kamerie Vidales and Caitlin Terrazas in the pitcher’s circle before finally turning to sophomore Amanda Cerda in the fourth. Vidales and Terrazas combined to issue seven walks and one hit batsman.
“We need to be a little more aggressive at the plate,” Hernandez said. “We let Victoria off balance. Defensively, we need to keep the ball low and change speeds effectively. We didn’t do that today.”
Vasquez also struggled with the plate umpire’s tight strike zone, surrendering six walks.
“They hit Vic hard at times,” Stoughton said, “but she made some good pitches.”
Dragons pitchers, however, fell behind early in the count too often, which led to the Rattlers getting pitches to hit in 2-1 and 3-1 counts. Marmolejo’s first home run came on a 3-1 pitch.
Senior center fielder Liz Phillips hit an opposite-field triple to lead off the the third inning. Phillips scored on a single from Arguello that made it 12-3. Arguello, for the second time, crossed the plate on a wild pitch.
An RBI single from Kinere and a two-run single from Vasquez (3-for-4, RBI) gave the Rattlers an 11-run cushion in the third.
Phillips (2-for-4) singled and scored on a misplayed grounder in the fourth, but the Dragons left two runners in scoring position. Marmolejo drilled a two-run homer to center in the fourth for a 17-5 advantage.
“I think they realize what’s at stake,” Stoughton said. “They’ve been hearing about Southwest. They have friends on Southwest’s team They know Southwest is a good team. They knew they had to keep scoring, and not let up.”
Cerda entered for the first time in the playoffs and notched all three outs in the inning, leaving two Rattlers runners on base. She had pitched just 1 2/3 innings this season.
Terrazas drew a leadoff walk for Southwest in the fifth. She reached third base on two passed balls.
Sophomore Miranda Gonzales hit a high pop fly to the circle which fell untouched for a single. Southwest loaded the bases on Amanda Sanchez’s swinging bunt.
Kristal Salinas hit a sacrifice fly that brought the Dragons within 17-6, but was their second out. Phillips was safe on error to slash San Marcos’ lead to 10.
Arguello hit a grounder to third base. Although the throw clearly pulled first baseman Vianey Villalpando off the base, but Arguello was ruled out and Sanchez’s run – which would have prevented the 10-run rule from taking effect – did not count.
“When you’re not hitting the ball, you need to make adjustments,” Hernandez said. “One thing for sure, these girls will come out fighting.”
It was only the second time in 10 playoff games that Southwest did not hit a home run. The other also was a loss, to Judson in the area round.
Southwest recovered to win their next two games and claim the series.
“You always have to use that,” Hernandez said, “but I don’t want them taking anything for granted. We’ll have to come ready to play. We’ll have to do what we know how to do.”