BASEBALL: Holy Cross begins new chapter with win over TMI

Knights avenge one-run losses in 2013 and 2014




Holy Cross lifted a weight off its back in collecting its first district win.

Texas Military Institute has been a roadblock to the Knights (7-5, 1-0) in district play. However, March14 at Holy Cross, the host team used a five-run third inning to down the Panthers (4-5, 0-1) in their TAPPS District 4-4A opener.

“It’s really important,” Holy Cross senior Jeremy Martinez said. “It shows our hard work is paying off, to come out and get a win. We had lost to them two years in a row by one run. My sophomore year, we lost to them when we had a chance to go to the playoffs.”

The victory brought a satisfying closure to a spring break week that began with 21-3 and 11-1 losses in a March 12 doubleheader against powerful Antonian. The Knights rebounded to vanquish Cotulla 17-5 at home on March 14.

Holy Cross has high hopes for its district season, with 10 experienced seniors on its roster. The Knights were 6-17 overall and 1-8 in district last year.

“I’ve had these kids for four years and they’ve been through a lot,” Knights coach Polo Botello said. “I’m looking forward to this season and they’re playing together as a team. In 22 years of coaching, I’ve never had this many seniors.”

Holy Cross senior shortstop Chris Rodriguez sparked the Knights’ first rally by reaching base on an error. Following a single from Ricky Robles, he scored on a groundout from fellow senior Steven Villela.

The run held up until the third inning, when freshman left-hander Jaime Ramirez ran into trouble as he reached his pitch limit. The Panthers strung together three walks and cleanup hitter David Embs delivered a two-run single. It was the only hit the lefty allowed, although Rodriguez prevented another with diving catch of a sinking liner in the second.

“He doesn’t pitch like a freshman,” Botello said. “He has a lot of poise. But he was at 55 pitches, and we’ve got plenty of arms.”

Ramirez turned the ball over to junior Augie Gutierrez, who allowed one hit over the next three innings. Martinez, whose 2014 season ended early because of an elbow injury, retired TMI in order in the seventh.

“We’re starting out with him in a relief role,” Botello said. “Right now, we’re closing with him. We’re hoping he’ll pitch in college. He has all the tools and he’s ready to go now.”

Holy Cross put the game out of the Panthers’ reach in the fifth.

Ramirez (2-for-2, RBI) led off the inning with a single that hugged the right-field line. Villela picked up another RBI with a ground out. Martinez, who hit a long fly out in his first at-bat, gave the Knights a 3-2 lead with a single to center.

“I felt like I was seeing the ball a lot better,” Martinez said. “Last game, I had some rough at-bats.

“It certainly helps when your teammates are coming up and hitting the ball.”

Gutierrez helped his cause with an RBI double. Gus Aguirre punctuated the rally with a two-run double over the right fielder’s head for a 6-2 lead.

Holy Cross added a run in the seventh when Ramirez drove in substitute Phillip Juarez, who had singled. The Knights made the most of their seven hits.

The roots of the victory might be traced back to a victory at state-ranked Class 3A Marion last year.

“It showed we were capable of beating big teams,” Martinez said.

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