NORTH STOMPS VELA WITH SEVEN-RUN FIRST; TAKES LEAGUE OPENER ON ROAD, 8-0

After the first inning Tuesday, North and Vela settled in for the type of prime matchup that the town expected heading into the District 31-6A baseball opener. Sharp pitching, solid defense, and the bats able to create just one run over the last six frames at Vela.

The trouble was, at least for the SaberCats, that first inning. It was death.

The Cougars pounced for seven runs, sending 12 hitters to the plate, benefiting from four Vela errors right off the bat to grab a huge 7-0 lead before a stunned Spring Break crowd.

Though they recovered their poise to play the Coogs square from there, allowing just a single initial tally – in the fourth – the Sabes were sunk, falling 8-0 in a disappointing league debut for their return to Class 6A and the city wars.

The first three North batters reached on errors, and though the Coogs cranked out three hits in the telltale frame, the fielding miscues set the tone. Very seldom is a game decided in the first rush, but this was the case.

With college-bound Carlo Servin in complete command on the mound, there was no chance for the Sabes to come back. They managed just a single hit off the hard-throwing right-hander, and fanned a whopping 14 times as Servin served up fastballs in the 88 mph range and found the mark on eight first-pitch curveballs. The senior star also went 4 for 4 at the plate in perhaps his greatest individual performance, but more vitally he got the Coogs off to a great start for the 2017 race in 31-6A.

Catcher Saul Garza of North made the defensive play of the evening, gunning out a runner who had strayed off second base, in the fourth. He has slimmed down and muscled up nicely for his senior season, thanks in part to a stint on the school swim team, and expects this to be a banner year for the Coogs.

“We had some problems early in the year, seemed like we would hit well with no one on base and then not with runners in scoring position,” said the four-year starter, who performed Tuesday with a St. Louis Cardinals scout checking him out, Servin as well. “But tonight we hit up and down the lineup, and that’s a good sign.”

Servin also noticed the total team effort, on a night where the Coogs warmed up to the soothing strains of “Beauty and the Beast” over the loudspeaker, by the way.

“Yeah, it always helps when everyone’s involved,” he said, adding that with all the rainouts to start the season, North has been off and on. Parts of two tourneys were washed away, leaving area teams with an experience deficit to begin 31-6A.

“We had several games rained out, so we’ve played like seven games or something,” Servin commented. “But when we get this sort of production up and down the lineup, we’ll be hard to beat.”

DIAMOND NOTES

The other lid-lifter in town Tuesday had the Jags beating EHS, 7-5, to begin what Econ hopes is a season of highlights. In action Friday, the Jags took out Memorial, 4-2 to begin 2-0 in district.

Coach Rigo Sanchez’ club has been running well, with 20 steals in 10 games, Ralphie Galvan leading with eight. Galvan and Pablo Juarez have paced the club in runs scored, Juarez in walks. The old standbys, Gerardo de Leon and Ismael Lopez, have each driven in seven runs. The Jags have a huge week ahead with P-SJ-A at home Tuesday and the rival Cougars Friday on the road.

The Coogs were the only city team ranked in the Valley’s Top 10 poll last week, checking in at No. 2. They pounded Southwest Friday and were set to engage Pharr North and then the Jags this week. Both EHS and Vela play Memorial this week, the Bobcats Tuesday. The Sabes were ready for Southwest Tuesday on the road and then Memorial at home Friday.