Holy Cross a little setback Saturday in the TAPPS 3-4A Tournament, but the Knights’ postseason hopes and dreams remain alive.
Corpus Christi Incarnate Word defeated the Knights (23-9-1) 6-2 at Holy Cross in the tournament semifinals. The tournament determines seeding for the TAPPS state tournament, which begins with bi-district play on April 29.
“It was a great experience,” Holy Cross coach Angel Cedillo said, “and we can still get to where we want to get to. Like I told the girls, ‘If you want to get to the show, you’ve got to prove it.’
“I know they’ll continue to work hard. I’ve got all the faith in the world in these girls. I think they’ll make a good run. We’ve just got to get back to work.”
Holy Cross will play Austin Hyde Park Baptist at 5 p.m. today in the third-place game.
The Knights tied the score 1-1 in the bottom of the first inning against Incarnate Word. Cleanup hitter Kat Rangel drove in the run.
Generally, though, Holy Cross didn’t get its usual share of timely hits.
“They did a good job against us,” Cedillo said. “Their pitcher was a finesse pitcher, and our girls were a little anxious. That pitcher gave them the toughest time. Against a fastball pitcher, they’re really competitive.”
Incarnate Word took the lead with two runs in the second inning. After the Knights cut the lead to 3-2 in the third, the Angels struck for three runs in the fifth, starting the rally with an extra-base hit.
“We left the bases loaded in the third or fourth inning,” Cedillo said. “I think that was our best hope.”
Both teams actually finished with nine hits. Holy Cross commited three errors.
“We didn’t hit the ball well,” Cedillo said. “Our best hitter was 0-for-4 and our second-best hitter was 1-for-4. When those kids aren’t hitting, that sets the stage. They outplayed us and we didn’t hit the ball when we needed to.”
Friday was Senior Night at Southwest, but it was the Dragons’ younger players who stole the show.
From sophomore Juan Carlos Hernandez’s first-inning home run to junior Daniel Garcia’s bases-clearing triple to junior Joseph Cerda’s steady pitching throughout, the veritable children led Southwest (11-8-1, 4-2) to the 7-2 District 28-5A win over South San (13-9, 3-3). The seniors, though, made their own subtle contributions to the victory, which gave Southwest a leg up in the race for second place in the district.
“We were on and off the whole first round,” Southwest coach John Velasquez said. “Even though we lost to (South San), we didn’t play that badly. (In the second round), different people have been stepping up all the time. You can’t point to just one guy.”
Hernandez stood out, though, depositing a booming opposite-field drive behind the left-field fence for a 1-0 lead. He finished 2-for-2 with two runs scored.
“I just saw that he put it right down the middle,” Hernandez said. “I had to take it oppo. I had to take one for the team. (The wind) probably helped me out.”
Cerda kept South San in check until the top of the sixth, permitting just two hits. That’s when Tony Hernandez drove in the Bobcats’ first run with a ground out. That came immediately after Garcia relieved Cerda with the bases loaded.
South San mustered one more run when senior John Gamez singled and scored in the seventh. The Bobcats lost their third-straight game.
“For a while, we were winning big games,” South San coach Robert Zamora said. “Now, we’re losing big games. This is a team game, but when one individual doesn’t make a play or get a hit with guys on base, it’s difficult to get it done.”
Southwest bolstered its lead to 4-0 in the fourth with a rally that began when Hernandez and senior Durann Patino drew walks and Cerda laid down a bunt single. The Dragons effectively put the game away with three more runs in the fifth as Hernandez produced the only hit.
The Dragons won their third-consecutive game. Southwest is tied for second place with Corpus Christi King (11-5, 4-2) , while South San fell to fourth.
“I wanted to get the win for our seniors,” Garcia said, “and especially for Cerda.”
Brackenridge, Edison qualify with 28-4A wins; East Central downs Steele to extend playoff streak
TEAMS INCLUDED: Brackenridge, Burbank, East Central, Edison, Harlandale, Highlands, Jefferson, Kennedy, McCollum, South San.
Brackenridge, East Central and Edison all paved their way to the playoffs with wins Friday night.
East Central (20-6, 5-3) bounced back from a loss to Southwest Tuesday to defeat Steele (14-11, 3-5) 3-1 in Cibolo in a District 28-5A game. In 28-4A, second-place Edison (10-12, 8-2) stomped Burbank (3-17-1, 0-9) 25-4 and third-place Brackenridge (15-9-1, 7-3) defeated Jefferson (8-11, 4-6) 8-2.
Jefferson fell one-half game behind fourth-place Highlands (8-11-1, 5-6) in the battle for the final playoff spot in District 28-4A. One of those teams is assured of a playoff spot, although it may be determined by a fourth-place tiebreaker game.
The area’s other potential qualifier could come from District 28-5A, where South San (10-13-1, 2-6) dropped into a fifth-place tie Friday with a heart-breaking 4-2 loss to Corpus Christi King (12-18, 2-6) in Corpus Christi.
East Central’s win tied it with Corpus Christi Carroll (20-5, 5-3) for second place. Carroll lost 8-4 to Southwest, which clinched at least a tie for the district championship.
The Hornets broke a 1-1 tie with a run in the fifth inning. East Central also produced an insurance run in the seventh.
East Central outhit Steele 6-5. No individual statistics were available for the Hornets.
Edison 25, Burbank 6 (4 innings)
The second-place Golden Bears poured it on late as they clinched a playoff appearance with a District 28-4A win over Burbank Friday at Mary Ann Villarreal Field No. 1.
Edison scored six runs in the first inning and took an 8-run advantage into the bottom of the second. Burbank produced a five-run rally in its half of the second and closed within two runs in the third, after holding the Golden Bears scoreless in the top of the inning.
The Golden Bears erupted for 17 runs in the fourth inning to invoke the 10-run rule. Winning pitcher Celeste Vela allowed just four hits.
Brackenridge 8, Jefferson 2
The third-place Eagles took a commanding lead in the early innings of the District 28-4A game and responded when fifth-place Jefferson put up a fight Friday at Villarreal Field No. 2.
Brackenridge claimed a 4-0 lead through the first four innings. The Mustangs, who also have a high-scoring offense, cut the lead in half in the top of the fifth. Brack answered the two-run rally with four of its own to win its third-consecutive game.
Junior Alexis Berlanga was the winning pitcher for the Eagles, limiting the Mustangs to six hits.
Harlandale 13, Kennedy 11 (9 innings)
Both teams are eliminated for the playoffs, but they’re still battling for fifth place in District 29-4A. They’re battling hard, as evidenced Friday at Tiger Field.
The Indians (10-15, 4-8) prevailed over host Kennedy (5-14, 3-9) with four runs in the top of the ninth inning. Kennedy made a strong comeback, scoring twice in their half of the inning before absorbing the tough loss.
Harlandale struck first, taking the lead with a three-run first inning. Kennedy scored its first run in the third inning and built a 9-3 lead in the bottom of the fourth. Harlandale scored two runs in each of the next three innings to send the game into extra innings.
Neither team scored in the eighth.
Sophomore Breanna Heredia hit a home run for Harlandale, which moved into fifth by virtue of the win. The Indians finished with 16 hits and the Rockets compiled 15.
McCollum 8, Uvalde 3
In a matchup of teams that have already qualified for the postseason, the second-place Cowboys (15-5, 10-2) turned the tables on a Uvalde team (15-11, 8-4) capable of putting up big innings.
McCollum scored five runs in the first two innings of the District 29-4A and junior pitcher Kim Abundis kept the Lobos from mounting a threat. Brianna Kinnard and Valerie Lopez both hit home runs for the Cowboys, who had 12 hits.
The Lobos, whom Abundis held to five hits, didn’t score until the fourth. McCollum put up three runs in the sixth to increase their lead to 8-1. Uvalde scored twice in the seventh.
For the sixth-consecutive year, Southwest will either win its district title outright or share it.
The Dragons (24-7, 7-1) are guaranteed of finishing first in District 28-5A after defeating third-place Corpus Christi Carroll (20-5, 5-3) Friday in Corpus Christi. The win put Southwest two games ahead of second-place East Central (20-6, 5-3) with two games remaining.
Carroll led during the early stages.
The Tigers scored the game’s first two runs, in the first and third innings while freshman pitcher Hannah Mayo kept the Dragons’ bats largely silent. That changed in the fourth, when Southwest pushed three runs across. It scored in each of the last four innings to seal the victory.
“We didn’t hit very well (early),” Southwest coach Sandy Hernandez said. “The first nine (in the order) went through and didn’t score a run.
“She kept getting us on her changeup pitch. Finally, Kamerie (Vidales) kept her hands back and hit one really hard. After that, they took her lead and they all started hitting that pitch.”
Southwest produced two-run rallies in both the fifth and seventh innings. The latter came from a two-run home run by sophomore Caitlin Terrazas.
“She kind of pushed the air out of Carroll,” Hernandez said. “After that, they were pretty much done.”
Terrazas also was the winning pitcher, limiting the Tigers to four hits. Southwest finished with 11 hits.
“Four hits against a team like that is a great accomplishment for a young pitcher,” Hernandez said. “Caitlin has really stepped up and pitched well. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
The Dragons can clinch an outright title Tuesday when they play host to Corpus Christi King (12-18, 2-6). Southwest is slated to finish its 28-5A schedule Thursday at Steele (14-11, 3-5).
TEAMS INCLUDED: Brackenridge, Central Catholic, Edison, Harlandale, Highlands, Kennedy, Lanier.
Brackenridge became the first area team to qualify for the postseason Friday. The second-place Eagles (11-8, 7-2) defeated Edison 12-5 Friday in District 28-4A game at SAISD Field No. 2.
Edison (3-15, 3-6) struck first, with a run in the bottom of the first inning, but Brack took the lead for good with a three-run second. The Eagles added two runs in the third and the Golden Bears cut the lead back to 5-4 in the bottom of the inning. Brackenridge put the game out of reach by scoring the next five runs.
Senior Jongregory Gonzales led Brackenridge with two hits, including a triple, and three RBIs. Tristen Cortinas produced a team-high three hits and an RBI. Mario Roldan also finished with two hits.
Brayan Guerrero (triple, RBI) and winning pitcher Robert Rangel each scored three runs. As a pitcher, Rangel allowed two earned runs and struck out six.
Edison individual statistics were unavailable. The Golden Bears are tied for fifth place in 28-4A with Jefferson (5-16, 3-6).
Central Catholic 9, Austin St. Michael’s 4
The Buttons (15-11, 5-3) took an early lead and pulled away late Saturday for a TAPPS District 2-5A win over rival Austin St, Michael’s (18-8-2, 6-3) in Austin.
Central Catholic scored four runs in the first two innings. The Crusaders tied it in the fourth, but the Buttons responded with three runs in the top of the fifth and two more in the seventh.
Senior Jonathan Ramirez was the winning pitcher for Central Catholic. The Buttons outhit St. Michael’s 10-3.
Harlandale 8, Kennedy 0
Senior left-hander Zach Perez pitched a seven-hit shutout, leading the Indians (9-11, 5-5) to a District 29-4A win over Kennedy (6-13, 2-8) Friday at Kennedy.
Perez pitched a complete-game, walking none and striking out six.
Harlandale sophomore Ramzey Martinez delivered two hits and two RBIs. Hunter Orozco and Robert Palomino also drove in runs.
The Indians scored six runs in the first three innings. Both teams finished with seven hits.
Highlands 6, Lanier 4
The third-place Owls (10-11, 5-5) launched an impressive comeback to win the District 28-4A game against fourth-place Lanier (7-13, 4-6) Friday at SAISD Field No. 1.
The Voks tied it 1-1 in the bottom of the second, took a 3-1 lead in the fourth and extended it to three runs in the fifth. Highlands took control with a five-run outburst in the sixth.
Justin Sanchez was the winning pitcher for Highlands. Lanier finished with seven hits while the Owls had six.
TEAMS INCLUDED: Brackenridge, Edison, Highlands, Lanier, McCollum, Memorial.
Brackenridge avenged an earlier loss while recording a decisive victory against Edison Tuesday at Villarreal Field No. 1.
The third-place Eagles (14-9-1, 6-3) tightened up the district standings with the 10-3 win. They pulled within a game of the second-place Golden Bears (9-12, 7-2).
After being shut out by Edison 1-0 on March 10, Brackenridge hammered 11 hits in the rematch. Meanwhile, Eagles junior pitcher Alexis Berlanga limited the Golden Bears to three hits.
Edison scored three runs in the bottom of the second inning to take the early lead, but Berlanga silenced the Bears thereafter. Brackenridge tied it in the third and took charge with two runs in the fourth.
The Eagles also scored in each of the last three innings.
Brackenridge junior Jacklynn Nevarez went 3-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs. Celeste Canales also was 3-for-4, producing a double and two RBIs. Senior Ana DeLeon contributed a triple and an RBI. Allie Castillo and freshman Alyssa Berlanga also drove in runs.
McCollum 18, Memorial 0 (5 innings)
Freshman Amber Saucedo pitched a one-hit shutout to help the second-place Cowboys (14-5, 9-2) recover from a loss to Floresville to defeat Memorial (1-17, 0-11) in a District 29-4A game Tuesday at Tiger Field.
Saucedo had plenty of support, as McCollum produced three big rallies. Ahead 2-0, the Cowboys scored five runs in the second inning and five more in the fourth. The Cowboys erupted for six runs in the fifth, when the 10-run rule went into effect.
McCollum finished with 10 hits.
Highlands 10, Lanier 5
The Owls (8-10, 5-5) slugged 12 hits and produced two four-run innings to defeat Lanier (5-15, 1-9) in a District 29-4A game Tuesday at Villarreal Field No. 2.
Highlands scored the game’s first two runs, but sixth-place Lanier cut the Owls’ lead to 2-1 in the second inning. Highlands scored four runs in both the third and fifth innings. Lanier rallied for three in the bottom of the seventh.
Highlands senior Samantha Lopez was the winning pitcher. The Voks had six hits.
TEAMS INCLUDED: Brackenridge, Burbank, Highlands, Jefferson, McCollum, Memorial, Southside, Southwest.
Southwest (10-8-1, 3-2) bolted into a three-way tie for second place District 28-5A Tuesday with an 8-5 home victory over Steele (11-11, 1-4).
Dragons junior pitcher Felipe Cardona (4-0) remained undefeated and helped his team pick up its second consecutive victory. Southwest is tied with South San (13-8, 3-2), whom the Dragons play host to at 7 p.m. Friday, and Corpus Christi King (16-7, 3-2).
Southwest broke a 2-2 tie with two runs in the second inning and three in the third. The Knights picked up three runs in the fourth inning, slashing the Dragons’ lead to two. Southwest added an insurance run in the fifth and shut down Steele the rest of the way.
Brackenridge 8, Burbank 5
The rivalry was alive and well Tuesday as the second-place Eagles (10-8, 6-2) had to fight hard for a District 29-4A win against seventh-place Burbank (5-15-1, 2-6) at SAISD Field No. 2.
The Bulldogs grabbed a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Brackenridge tied it by the end of the second and took the lead with four runs in the third.
Burbank cut the Eagles’ lead to 6-5 in the top of the fourth, but Brackenridge responded with two runs in the bottom of the inning. Brayan Guerrero and Robert Rangel combined to keep the Bulldogs scoreless thereafter.
Brackenridge senior Mario Roldan was the winning pitcher and went 2-for-2 with 2 RBIs at the plate. Guerrero was 3-for-3 with a double. Jongregory Gonzales also hit a double.
McCollum 26, Memorial 1 (5 innings)
Co-District 29-4A leader McCollum (17-3, 8-1) stunned Memorial (0-0, 0-0) Tuesday at Edgewood Field.
The Cowboys scored 10 runs in each of the first two innings. The Minutemen scored their run in the bottom of the second.
Sophomore Rafael Ramirez hit his second home run of the season for McCollum and was the winning pitcher.
Highlands 7, Jefferson 2
The Owls (9-11, 4-5) latched onto a share of fourth place in District 29-4A Tuesday SAISD Field No. 1 with a win against Jefferson (5-15, 3-6). The win helped Highlands move up while Lanier lost to Brennan and fell back into fourth.
The Mustangs took the lead in the top of the first inning. Highlands quickly wiped out Jefferson’s lead with two runs in their half of the inning and three more in the third. Jefferson closed the gap to 5-2 in the top of the fourth, but the Owls struck for two more in the bottom of the frame.
Highlands senior Steven Martinez was the winning pitcher and went 2-for-3 at bat with a double and an RBI.
Joshua Ortega supplied two hits and two RBIs. Freshman Bryan Aguilar also collected two hits. Gustavo Castro had a double and an RBI.
For Jefferson, Kevin Cortinas was the offensive standout with two hits and an RBI. Greg Gonzales also drove in a run.
Even on days when the ball isn’t jumping off the bat, Southwest is a better hitting team than most. When their offense is raging, the Dragons can overpower even an outstanding hitting team.
That happened in the non-district season, when Southwest run-ruled Smithson Valley, then-No. 1 in the Express-News area rankings. It occurred again Tuesday, when the Dragons (23-7, 6-1) claimed a 7-1 victory over District 28-5A rival East Central.
With the win at East Central, district-leading Southwest clinched a playoff berth. The Hornets (19-6, 4-3) dropped to third place by virtue of their second-consecutive district loss.
“Everyone says that hitting is contagious,” Southwest sophomore pitcher Caitlin Terrazas said. “Whenever our leader steps up and does it, it makes the game 10 times more fun.”
The Dragons qualified for their sixth-consecutive playoff appearance under coach Sandra Hernandez. Southwest reached the area round last year and have advanced to the Region IV quarterfinals twice.
Southwest is No. 3 and the Hornets are No. 4 in the current Express-News rankings.
East Central swept the Dragons last year, which was a key factor in the Hornets sharing the district title with them. The victory completed a sweep of the season series for Southwest, which won the first meeting 8-7 in nine innings.
“We’ve been scoring a lot of runs,” Southwest coach Sandra Hernandez said. “We had 11 against South San Friday and seven tonight. I couldn’t be more pleased with the way we’re hitting the ball.”
Southwest mustered 12 hits Tuesday, while Terrazas limited the Hornets to three. The more telling statistic was that East Central left nine runners on base, while Southwest stranded five.
“We had some hard hits,” East Central coach Megan McCutcheon said. “We were making good contact. It seemed like it was going right to them. Last time we played them, we were hitting the ball in the gaps.”
The Hornets actually scored first, with two outs in the first inning. Sophomore shortstop Haydi Bugarin walked, stole second and reached third on errant throw. Bugarin scores on an infield single by senior Taylor Doege.
Dragons shortstop Krystal Salinas made diving stop to prevent it from being a double.
“Krystal Salinas came up huge today,” Hernandez said. “She had one ball go off the tip of her glove. Other than that, she was really solid. I think we had most of their hits went to shortstop. And we had one big play (in the sixth) from our center fielder, Liz, on a line drive.”
Terrazas induced a ground out that enabled her to get out of the inning, leaving East Central with Doege on base. Hailey Reynolds singled with one out in the second, but the Hornets’ potential threat ended with the bases loaded.
It was the last time the Hornets advanced a runner past second base.
East Central only hit five balls out of the infield against the Southwest pitcher. Interestingly, Terrazas recorded no strikeouts, while walking four. Each of those bases on balls were issued in the first four innings.
Terrazas retired eight of the last nine Hornets batters in order.
“It was just working pitches inside and out,” Terrazas said. “I’ve got a pretty great defense, so I just needed to let them work. The defense really helped me tonight and it especially helped that we were scoring runs.”
In the top of the second, senior Kamerie Vidales launched a leadoff single to the center-field fence. With one out, Terrazas slammed a hard RBI single to center. Senior designated player Gabby Flores followed with another run-scoring hit.
“We’re very confident we can get hits,” Flores said. “It’s just a matter of time.”
McCutcheon opted to replace starting pitcher Madison Strunk with Doege in the third inning to disrupt Southwest’s hitting rhythm. She reversed the move in the fifth, after Salinas led off the inning with a double.
Doege is in her fourth season as an East Central starter. Strunk, a junior, also has pitched since she was a freshman. Both have extensive playoff experience, a luxury that the first-year Hornets coach expects to pay dividends as the season winds down.
“It’s going to, hopefully, carry us through the postseason,” McCutcheon said. “I’m very fortunate to have two very strong pitchers. In the past, I’ve had teams that had to rely on one pitcher throughout the entire season. I’m very fortunate to have depth in pitching.”
The idea was to let the Hornets infield do its work, as Terrazas did.
“With Southwest, if you let them get the bat on the ball, they’re a difficult team to beat,” McCutcheon said. “They’re a good team. We tried to come at them with everything we had.”
The Dragons rallied again in the fourth, building a 4-1 lead.
Yanira Fernandez got things started for the Dragons with a one-out single. Terrazas then sent a double to the left-center field power alley.
With runners on second and third, Flores fouled off a ball that had home run distance. She worked the count to 3-2, then dumped a single to left for her second RBI.
“I’m always nervous in that situation,” Flores said, “but you just have to know that you’re going to get a hit.”
Miranda Gonzales added solid RBI single to left, but Angel Lopez’s throw from left field cut down a would-be run at the plate. East Central catcher Hailey Miller applied the tag and nearly threw out Gonzales at second for double play.
In the fifth, Southwest put the game out of reach with a three-run uprising.
Dragons senior center fielder Liz Phillips, who ran down a drive to the left-center gap an inning later, followed Salinas’ double with a bunt single. Senior Kayla Arguello smoked an run-scoring double to the right-field fence and an error on the resulting throw increased Southwest’s lead to 6-1.
Fernandez drove in the game’s final run with an RBI single. East Central right fielder Chelsea Taylor ended the threat by creating a double play on a fly ball. The Southwest runner tagged up on the play. Taylor caught the fly and threw out the runner out at third base.
“Everybody has been getting key hits,” Hernandez said.
In East Central’s half of the inning, Doege delivered her second hit of the night and the Hornets’ first since the second inning. However, East Central wasn’t able to manufacture a run.
Offensively, East Central had to break in a new leadoff hitter. Freshman center fielder Kendall Talley was out with a knee injury. Cara Johnson was promoted from the junior varsity to be her replacement both in the field and in the top batting-order slot.
McCutcheon is trying to improve the Hornets’ mental toughness.
“We’re trying to get the ‘head’ edge,” McCutcheon said. “That’s just one way of winning games. That’s where my focus is. I’m constantly yelling at them to hit the ball hard, so that’s the last thing they hear before they go up to bat.”
Like Southwest, Hornets advanced to the area round in the playoffs last year, for the second time in three seasons under former coach Bryan Waller. Waller now is coaching at Copperas Cove.
McCutcheon, an Ohio University graduate. arrived from Clear Springs. She moved from the suburban Houston school along followed East Central football coach Clint Hartman and girls basketball coach Ginger Hartman (his wife).
The Hornets resume 28-5A play Friday with a game against fourth-place Steele (14-10, 3-4). The game takes place at 7 p.m. in Cibolo.
“The kids understand that’s a game we must win,” McCutcheon said. “Steele’s a good team. We need to come at them hard and put up runs.”
Southwest has not lost since dropping their district-opening game at South San. The loss helped the Dragons regroup and fashion their current six-game winning streak.
“That was a tough loss, but we came back with a lot of energy and just kept our focus,” Terrazas said. “It reminded us that you can’t take anyone lightly. We have to play our game, no matter who we’re playing.”
Southwest will face another tough test Friday, when it plays second-place Corpus Christi Carroll (17-4, 4-2) at Cabaniss Field in Corpus Christi.
“It’s going to be really tough – really hard,” Hernandez said. “They’ve got a freshman pitcher that’s really stepped up.”
As the Dragons showed Tuesday, they have a solution for that.
Mustangs’ win ties them with Highlands for fourth in 28-4A
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More than mere revenge was at stake Friday when Jefferson took on Highlands at Mary Ann Villarreal Field No. 2.
The Mustangs (8-9, 4-5) wanted payback for their March 7 loss to Highlands (7-10, 4-5), but they stood to gain something more valuable. With a commanding 11-1 victory, Jefferson tied the Owls for fourth place in District 28-4A with just three games remaining.
The top four finishers in each district qualify for the postseason. Brennan (18-3, 9-0) has clinched a playoff berth and Edison (9-11, 7-1) has all but locked up another. Brackenridge (13-9-1, 5-3) is in third place and holds a two-game lead on the Mustangs and Owls.
“We’ve all come together this year, better than any other season,” Jefferson senior pitcher Mary Loera said. “We wanted to win tonight and try to get into the playoffs.”
Both senior-dominated teams understandably have their sights set on qualifying. Jefferson wants to keep its streak alive after making the cut last year. Highlands hasn’t made the playoffs for about 10 years.
“Essentially, it’s about the same team,” Highlands coach Tracy Guadarrama said, comparing this year’s squad to her 2013 team. “Things have kind of clicked for them. They’re tougher mentally. They have more confidence in themselves and a stronger belief they can win.”
The Owls won the first meeting against Jefferson 16-8 on March 7.
“Last time, we came in on a high,” Jefferson coach Jennifer Gomez said. “We were really coming off a big win over Lanier and good game against Brennan. Last time, they just blew us away because we came in with too much confidence.
“This time we were more relaxed but, also, with more (determination) to win.”
It was a battle of twoteams with a sizable emotional investment in qualifying for the playoffs this year. Jefferson, remarkably, has 10 seniors on its roster. Highlands has six.
Highlands took a 1-0 lead in the second inning. Jessica Garza led off the inning with a leadoff double to the left-center field gap. Natalie Zuniga brought her home with an RBI single.
Loera retired the next 11 Owls batters in order until opposing pitcher Samantha Lopez reached base on an error in the sixth.
“Mary just kind of took control,” Gomez said.
So, too, did Jefferson’s offense.
The Mustangs scored their first two runs in the fourth when senior Melanie Sheppard hit a booming RBI double and scored on a throwing error. They added three more in the fifth, aided by three of the Owls’ eight errors and one of Becky Rodriguez’s three hits – an RBI single.
Trailing 5-1, Highlands’ problems seemed to snowball.
A single by clean-up hitter Stephanie Munoz and a pair of Mustangs errors loaded the bases in the bottom of the sixth. Jefferson third baseman Amber Maldonado, who contributed two hits, threw to the plate for a force out and Loera induced a come-backer to extinguish the threat.
“I think, mostly, the girls weren’t swinging the bat,” Guadarrama said. “They were waiting too late in the count to start swinging.”
The diminutive senior kept the ball on the ground, for the most part, following a third inning in which Jefferson right fielder Christina Pedraza made two putouts and had an assist. Pedraza accounted for all three outs, including throwing out a Highlands runner at first.
“I think everything was working,” Loera said. “I was able to mix up my pitches. The inside (pitches) were what I was getting them on.”
Loera’s performance was all the more impressive, coming against a team that has scored 12 or more runs five times in 28-4A games.
“Our offense has been pretty solid,” Guadarrama said. “Defensively, we always have some errors, but our offense always seems to be able to cover them. That game, we got too far behind and there was no way to recover..”
Jefferson produced 13 hits to offset its three errors. The Mustangs’ knockout kick was a six-run sixth inning, prolonged by four Highlands errors.
“We gave them too many extra outs,” Guadarrama said.
The big hits in the Jefferson sixth were supplied by catcher Grace Chavez, who had an RBI single and shortstop Bianca Nunez, who followed it with a run-scoring triple. Nunez finished with three hits.
“We kept our mistakes down,” Gomez said. “We knew we could get base hits or put the ball in play. We wanted to make them make a play on it. If we did that, we knew we’d be able to push them to make errors.”
With such an over-abundance of seniors, Highlands’ leadership equation has potential for disaster. The phrase “too many cooks spoil the soup” might apply.
Instead, Loera sees herself and her fellow seniors as an over-sized support group.
“Basically everybody (is a leader),” Loera said. “We can all take criticism, from each and every one of us. This year, I think we’re more mature. All the seniors have come together better.”
“Each one of them contributes in her own way,” Gomez said. “Melo (Sheppard) is the outfield leader. Mary and Grace (Chavez) are the infield leaders. But they all take the leadership role, across the board.”
Highlands will, no doubt, be drawing in its leadership during the district’s stretch run.
The Owls are slated to face Lanier 7:15 p.m. Tuesday at Villarreal Field No. 2. Then they’ll run the gauntlet, finishing against district-leading Brennan Friday at field No. 3 (7:15 p.m.) and third-place Brackenridge April 17.
“We’re going to have tough games,” Guadarrama said, “but we can’t worry about what (other teams) are doing. We’re capable of winning all three. It’s a matter of the determination and confidence we go into it with.”
For Jefferson to return to the playoffs, its figurative road will wind through Brackenridge 7:15 p.m. Friday on field No. 2 and second-place Edison April 17, with a stop in between to play Burbank.
After a break from 28-4A competition Tuesday, Gomez’s thoughts are on Brackenridge.
“That’s going to be the other big game we have to win,” she said. “If we can take that, for sure, we’re in the playoffs.”
Friday’s game convinced the 16th-year Jefferson coach that the Mustangs are on the right track.
“They’re playing like a team that wants to go to the next level,” Gomez said. “They’re stepping up their game and playing with confidence.”
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Edison got hits throughout Friday afternoon’s District 28-4A game at SAISD Field No. 1. Then, when the Golden Bears really needed runs, they found a way to score without the benefit of a base hit.
The Golden Bears (3-13, 3-5) helped create a crazy situation in the district with a 4-3 walk-off win over Highlands (8-11, 3-5). The win, coupled with Jefferson’s upset of third-place Lanier, forged a three-way tie for fourth-place in 28-4A.
“This was a great win,” veteran Edison coach Billy Montemayor said. “It put the kids on top of the district. They’re finding ways to get better. They’re so young.”
Edison had nine hits in the game, but had none in the seventh inning.
The unlikely ending unfolded with one out in the seventh. Highlands starter Justin Sanchez hit Edison’s Nate Jimenez with a pitch. First-year Owls coach Stephen Jauregui then decided it was time to make a change, citing both Sanchez’s pitch count and the result of the pitch.
“At that point, it was just a high pitch count and the top of the order was coming up,” Jauregui said. “We were looking at their 2-3-4 hitters. I took a chance with a faster arm to see if he could get their tough guys out. I took a chance to get out of the inning.”
Freshman Bryan Aguilar entered in relief for Highlands and also hit a batsman. Julio Alvarez, the soon-to-be winning pitcher, took first base and the Golden Bears’ top hitter, Julian Cortez, moved to the batter’s box. Highlands opted to issue him an intentional walk.
Cortez already had two hits.
“He’s probably batting .500 or .600 in the district,” Montemayor said. “He’s a tough kid who finds a way to get on. We call him ‘Curls’ because of his hair.”
That’s when chaos unfolded.
A wild pitch brought in the tying run with cleanup hitter Alec Suarez in the batter’s box. With two runners on base, Suarez hit a grounder that enabled Alvarez to cross the plate with the winning run.
“In district, we’ve started hitting the ball more and making less mistakes,” said Alvarez, a senior left-hander who limited the Owls to three hits. “We’ve just continued to improve on that.
“Right now, it feels great. We won the game, and we played pretty well, too.”
Highlands had taken a 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth. Josh Ortega led off with a double, advanced on Gus Castro’s sacrifice bunt and scored on Ryan Bailey’s ground out.
Edison’s upset win preceded one from Jefferson (5-14, 3-5), which also moved into fourth. Idle Burbank (2-5 in district) was just a half-game behind in seventh. The top four finishers will qualify for the playoffs.
Brennan (14-6-1, 7-1) remained in first place with a 6-1 win over second-place Brackenridge (9-8, 5-2).
Highlands, alone in fourth when the game began, didn’t own the lead until the sixth. Alvarez retired the first nine Owls batters in order, without surrendering a hit.
“Jose pitched fantastic,” Montemayor said. “I think he’s probably the best pitcher in the district. .”
Alvarez features a high leg kick, reminiscent of San Francisco Giants Hall-of-Famer Juan Marichal. The senior said he uses it as a timing mechanism.
“I’ve always had it, since I first started pitching,” Alvarez said. “I didn’t pick it up as much when I was in seventh grade, but when I started getting stronger, I started picking it up higher. It helps me a lot, too.
“It makes me stay around the plate.”
Edison scored first, when Jimenez hit a smash which handcuffed Jefferson’s third baseman and drove in a run. The Owls tied it a short time later after Aguilar led off the fourth with a double. Ortega made it 1-1 with a sacrifice fly.
The Golden Bears jumped ahead in the bottom of the fourth. Cortez, Tristen Pequeno and
Chris Velez lined singles. Velez collected the RBI with one out, but Edison stranded two runners in the fourth and left the bases loaded in the fifth.
“(Sanchez) did pretty well,” Jauregui said. “I told him to just get out there and throw strikes. He made them swing the bat. He did what I asked him to.”
Edison left the door open for Highlands, which manufactured runs in both innings.
Owls catcher-shortstop John Cruz started the fifth with an infield single. He advanced on Gabriel Gomez’s bunt. A dropped third strike – on what should have been the third out of the inning – enabled Cruz to make it 2-2 in the top of the fifth.
Highlands made efficient use of its offensive chances. The Owls only left three runners on base.
“Offensively, I thought we did a good job,” Jauregui said. “We’ve been stressing aggressive baserunning. They made a few errors, which helped us out, but we did a good job of making contact and limiting strikeouts.”
Edison, which entered district play winless after absorbing heavy graduation losses, takes a break from district play Tuesday. The Golden Bears will returns to action with a tough challenge against Brackenridge 7 p.m. Friday at SAISD No. 2.
“It’s a very young group of kids, but they’re great kids,” Montemayor said. “They all make grades but, with baseball, they’ve been a little slow to (learn).
“We can get better, and I think we’ll continue to get better. They’re young, but they’re finding a way to win.”
Highlands aims to bounce back Tuesday in a 7 p.m. game at SAISD No. 1. The Owls are slated to play Lanier at 4:30 p.m. Friday on field No. 1.
They are two games that could go a long way toward defining Highlands’ playoff potential in a district gone off the rails.
“Lanier losing to Jefferson was good for us,” Jauregui said. “We’re hoping to take care of business against Jefferson. Then, if Brennan beats Lanier, we’ll play Lanier on Friday in a must-win game.”
Chaos reigns in District 28-4A, all seven teams in playoff hunt
TEAMS INCLUDED: Burbank, East Central, Jefferson, Lanier, McCollum, Memorial, South San, Southside, Southwest.
South San erased a huge deficit and won the game it needed to secure second-place in District 28-5A Friday.
The Bobcats (13-7, 3-1) avoided a second-consecutive district loss Friday, edging East Central (10-7-2, 0-4) 7-6 at South San’s Burrows-Gustafson Field. Their good fortune didn’t hold up Saturday afternoon, as Burbank won a non-district game at the field.
However, the win over the hard-luck Hornets and Southwest’s victory over Corpus Christi King – the only 28-5A team to defeat South San so far – bumped the Bobcats up to second. Corpus Christi Carroll (19-3, 4-0) leads the district.
East Central, which dropped its second one-run decision in the district, scored the game’s first six runs.
The Hornets oroduced a single run in the first inning and tacked on five in the fourth. The Bobcats scored their first run in the fifth. They also manufactured a five-run rally, tying the score 6-6 in the bottom of the sixth. South San notched the decisive run in the bottom of the seventh.
South San recorded 11 hits to East Central’s six. Bobcats senior John Gamez was the winning pitcher.
Jefferson 5, Lanier 1
On the heels of Edison’s upset victory, the Mustangs (5-14, 3-5) sprung one of their own in District 28-4A. Jefferson downed third-place Lanier (7-11, 4-4) Friday at SAISD Field No. 2.
Although Lanier held its ground in 28-4A despite the loss, Edison (3-13, 3-5) had defeated Highlands (8-11, 3-5) 4-3 earlier Friday to help bring about a three-way tie for fourth. Idle Burbank (2-5 in district) found itself just a half-game off the playoff pace in the jam-packed district.
Brennan (14-6-1, 7-1) remained in first place with a 6-1 win over second-place Brackenridge (9-8, 5-2).
Jefferson broke a scoreless tie with three runs in the fourth inning against Lanier. The Mustangs added a run in the fourth before the Voks broke the ice in the top of the fifth.
Miguel Montoto led Jefferson with three hits. Pitchers Victor Morales and Cesar Carranza limited Lanier to two hits. Morales struck out five in six innings and was the winning pitcher.
McCollum 6, Floresville 4
The Cowboys (16-3, 7-1) held down their share of first place in District 29-4A Friday at the Frank Tejeda Complex, on the strength of a fifth-inning rally that subdued third-place Floresville (11-7, 5-3). Co-leader Medina Valley (15-5-1, 7-1) also maintained its position with a 10-0 win over Harlandale (8-10, 4-4).
McCollum was tied 1-1 at the end of the first inning. The visiting Tigers claimed the lead with three runs in the second. The five-run Cowboys uprising in the fifth completed the scoring.
Cowboys senior Jesse Medina was the winning pitcher, striking out 14 and surrendering four hits. All of Floresville’s runs were unearned.
McCollum finished with nine hits.
Southwest 2, Corpus Christi King 1
The Dragons (9-8-1, 2-2) forged a tie for third place in District 28-5A with a win over Corpus Christi King (9-5, 2-2) Friday at Southwest.
Southwest junior John Cerda won the pitcher’s duel against King’s Dylan Delgadillo, with help from two Dragons runs in the fourth inning. Cerda held the Mustangs to three hits. Southwest had two hits.
King had taken a 1-0 lead in the second inning.
Memorial 4, Southside 3
The Minutemen (6-12, 3-5) defeated District 29-4A rival Southside (4-14, 1-7) for the second time this season Friday at Southside. The victory moved Memorial into a tie for fifth place with Uvalde (6-12-1, 3-5).
Memorial took control with a three-run second inning and held off the Cardinals, who scored twice in the inning. The Minutemen scored again in the third for a two-run cushion. Southside scored its last run in the fourth.
Minutemen senior pitcher Ivan DeAnda, who shut out Southside March 7, limited the Cardinals to three hits.
Burbank 9, South San 6
The Bulldogs (5-14-1) used their break from 28-4A competition well, winning at South San Saturday.
The teams were tied 1-1 through three innings. Burbank produced the first big inning, striking for five runs in the fourth.
South San closed to 6-3 in the bottom of the inning, but the Bulldogs responded with two more runs in the fifth. It was enough for them to hold off a three-run fourth from their hosts.
Burbank senior Jonathan Alanis was the winning pitcher.
TEAMS INCLUDED:Brackenridge, Burbank, Holy Cross, Memorial, South San, Southside, Southwest.
Southwest (22-7, 5-1) avenged an earlier loss to South San (10-11-1, 2-4) Friday and took full custody of the District 28-5A lead in the process.
The Dragons routed the Bobcats 11-1at Southwest. They had been tied with East Central (19-5, 4-2) prior to the game, but the Hornets lost 1-0 to Corpus Christi Carroll (19-4, 4-2) Friday in Corpus Christi, dropping those two teams into a tie for second place.
South San got off to a promising start, just as it had in its first meeting March 13 scoring a run in the top of the first inning. This time, district-leading Southwest took the lead with three runs in the bottom of the inning and never relinquished it. The Bobcats didn’t score in the last four innings and Southwest put the game away with five runs in the fourth.
Kamerie Vidales and Miranda Gonzales both hit home runs for the Dragons. Sophomore pitcher Caitlin Terrazas limited South San to two hits. The Bobcats had nine in a 13-8 win at South San.
Southwest, which finished with 11 hits, will put its five-game winning steak on the line 7 p.m. Tuesday at East Central.
The Bobcats are tied for fourth in 28-5A with Steele (14-20, 2-4). Holy Cross 12, Austin Hyde Park Baptist 2 (5 innings)
The Knights (23-8-1, 7-1) wrapped up the TAPPS District 3-4A season with a decisive win over Austin Hyde Park Baptist (5-2 in district) Saturday at Holy Cross.
Hyde Park took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning, but Holy Cross senior pitcher Julia Ibarra found her rhythm thereafter and limited the Bears to three hits.
The Knights, who won their third game of the week, wiped out the Austin team’s lead with seven runs in the bottom of the first inning. Holy Cross scored again in the second and put the 10-run rule into play with five more in the fifth.
Holy Cross finished with 11 hits. The Knights will play next in 3-4A district tournament against an opponent to be determined. Brackenridge 14, Burbank 4 (5 innings)
Burbank put up a fight but was eventually overwhelmed by the rival Eagles (13-9-1, 5-3) Friday at Villarreal Field No. 1.
The Bulldogs (3-16-1, 0-8) scored a run in the top of the first in the District 29-4A game. Third-place Brackenridge tied the score in the bottom of the inning and went on to establish a 6-1 advantage in the second inning, with help from Allie Castillo’s three-run double.
Burbank pulled within 6-4 in the fourth inning, but Brackenridge erupted for five runs in the bottom of the inning before the Bulldogs were able to record a second out. The Eagles scored three more in the fifth to put the 10-run rule into effect.
Southside 16, Memorial 6 (5 innings)
The Cardinals (5-17, 2-8) ended a six-game losing streak with a District 29-4A victory over Memorial (1-16, 0-10) Friday at Southside.
Southside jumped out to an 8-0 lead in its first at-bat and had a nine-run cushion through two innings. The Minutemen rallied to within 9-5 in the top of the third inning. The Cardinals scored five runs in the next two frames.
Isabel Gonzalez was the winning pitcher for Southside. She only allowed the Minutemen four hits.