BASEBALL: Pitching lifts Southwest to third in own tourney

Weather holding back area teams

AREA TEAMS INCLUDED: Central Catholic, Harlandale, McCollum, Southwest.


With the persistent rain this season, area teams haven’t had as much time to address their issues as they typically have by the end of Week 2.

That applies to each team differently, even though the rainfall affects everyone. The Southwest/Central Catholic Tournament, for example, was one day shorter than originally scheduled. Games slated for March 5 were rained out.

Even though all coaches are feeling the time crunch resulting from games not played, Southwest (5-3-1) has something useful on its side – pitching depth. It helped the Dragons stay competitive in each of its tournament games and finish third.

While most teams are struggling to find three semi-reliable starters, Southwest has pitchers for all occasions. Although not all of them have varsity experience, the Dragons pitching staff won three of five tournament games and allowed nine runs.

“When those guys are on, we don’t lose,” Southwest coach John Velasquez said. “We have eight (pitchers), and so far we’ve used six.

“Joe Cerda pitched the whole second game against Medina Valley and did well. Felipe Cardona was sick, but he went the first three innings in our first game against Medina Valley (a 5-2 loss). Juan Carlos Hernandez pitched an excellent game against Central Catholic and Zach Ponce pitched well the first (tournament) game.”

Southwest defeated Central Catholic (3-4-1) 4-1 in the third-place game March 7 as Hernandez recovered from a collision in the semifinal against Medina Valley, a 2-1 loss, to pitch a four-hitter. McCollum (2-4) defeated Harlandale (2-4-1) for the consolation championship March 7 at Central’s Kahlig Park.

“We’re blessed to have that pitching,” Velasquez said, “but we need to hit the ball better and get a little better behind the plate. We have two inexperienced catchers, and they’re learning.”

“Juan Carlos got hit in the face in a rundown,” Velasquez said of Hernandez. “He showed a lot of guts. He’s played with us for two years already, and he hasn’t let up yet.”

Central Catholic, McCollum and Harlandale share a common problem. Their inexperience is being magnified by infrequent competition.

“The weather has been tough for us,” said Harlandale coach Eric Forestier, referencing the Harlandale ISD Tournament which was canceled because of rain a week earlier.

“Especially when you’re so young, you want to play.”

Central Catholic may not have played often, but it has played quality opponents. The Buttons had to face Laredo Alexander, No. 4 in the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association Class 6A state rankings, twice in its five tournament games. Alexander won 15-1 and 13-1.

“People need to understand,” Central Catholic coach Mike Gomez said, “at this stage of the season, it’s not about wins and losses. It’s about experience, and we’ve gotten some good experience.”

Sophomore Ethan Rodriguez delivered a walk-off hit in Central Catholic’s 3-2 opening-game win over MccCollum. The Buttons tied Harlandale 6-6, but advanced more runners to third base to win the tiebreaker.

“We’re just not hitting the ball like we have in the past,” Gomez said. “We only have four seniors, and just two start. The encouraging sign is that we’ve seen the younger kids play against Laredo Alexander twice, and they had no fear.”

Harlandale is starting four freshmen, four sophomores and no seniors.

“We have five or six pitchers, but no one is dominant,” Forestier said. “That could be good, or bad.”

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