CORTEZ SLAM IN FIRST LEADS UNBEATEN EHS TO SOFTBALL VICTORY AT NORTH

Yes, EHS was outscored 4-2 in the last six innings, and no, the Lady Bobcats did not enjoy their most consistent defensive performance, committing four errors. But the bottom line is, their first-inning fireworks display at North Tuesday night was enough to push the club to 5-0 in District 31-6A.

After the first three hitters of the night reached on bunts, up stepped powerful junior Erika Cortez. First pitch, slam! 4-0 Lady ‘Cats, and later in the frame they added another run to shock the Lady Cougars on their home turf. From there, an uneven contest with seven fielding miscues, only four hits allowed by the superb Cortez, and as of late Tuesday – with Vela’s surprise 1-0 loss to Pharr North – EHS had a fat two-game lead, super early in the race.

The transfer from San Benito was the Gal of the Night, fanning six in a 7-4 decision and scattering four hits, and afterward suggested that this was what she had come to town to do.

“I wanted to come on and shut down everyone I face, work hard and help this team win,” said the burly hurler, who crosses herself after almost every pitch or at-bat. “I know these girls have my back so my job is not to mess up, get batters out. It was tough to leave my friends in San Benito, but I have made new ones here, it’s been totally worth it.”

Her new friends had their share of issues with the glove, but did come up with some outstanding plays, including diving stops by shortstop Maya Zavala and right fielder Celeste Olivarez. At bat, the Lady Bobcats cranked out 11 hits, and every kid in the order got at least one safety. And then there was the first inning.

“We saw what Small Ball could do,” Cortez commented about the trio of bunts that caught the Lady Coogs on their heels to start. “And then the big sticks came through.”

It seemed like North (3-2) would never get through that interminable opening frame as EHS sent 11 batters to the dish. But from there, the Lady Coogs settled in and chipped away, getting two in the fourth after falling behind 7-0. They narrowed the gap to 7-4, and had a runner on in the seventh with slugger Hope Rodriguez at bat, with two outs. But as she did all night, Cortez got the best of the North killer, inducing a grounder to Kristee Salas at third to end the game.

“I knew who they were and I wanted to make sure they didn’t hurt us,” Cortez said of the Rodriguez Girls, Hope and Natalie, who went a combined 0 for 8 Tuesday. “Overall, my pitching was sort of mediocre, but it was enough to get the win.”

Having seen his team carve out a very formidable two-game edge in district after five outings, EHS coach Ramon Arciba was proud of his kids, though they did not craft a perfect game by any stretch.

“We gave away some runs, both teams did really,” he admitted. ”I think we may have been too fired up, lots of pressure when we play North, there always is. Sometimes when you try too hard, you make mistakes, but we were able to get the win tonight.”

Arciba called Cortez a great addition to the roster.

“She’s a hard worker, she is always doing extra work outside of practice with her trainer,” said Arciba, who knows about the mound from years of working with pitchers, including his daughter, the awesome Sam Arciba of Lady Bobcat lore. “We’re blessed because Erika brings a lot to the table; tonight she threw first-pitch strikes and got ahead, which is what you have to do as a pitcher.”

As for the barrage of bunts followed by the crushing Cortez dinger, Arciba echoed the words of his valuable newcomer.

“We saw them playing pretty far back at the beginning so we went to Small Ball,” he said. “We took advantage of that, executed, and then the big stick came through!”