VELA STUNS WESLACO AT ITS PLACE WITH CLINCHING SOFTBALL VICTORY

It may have looked good after Thursday, and it may have seemed dark after Friday, but after Saturday, the Lady SaberCats can say with certainty: looking real good!!!

Vela came back from a 12-3 home drubbing suffered at the hands of Weslaco, and 24 hours later went into the Pantherette den and emerged victorious, winning 9-1 to clinch a terrific bi-district series and advance to the area round.

Now 29-6 to set a program record for success, the Lady Sabes move past the first round for the first time as a 6A entry, and will take on Laredo Alexander (19-10) for a shot at the regional quarterfinals.

As always, the heroes were familiar names and faces, as junior Taylor Chavez cracked her school-record 10th home run Saturday, adding two doubles, and senior workhorse Naomi “Monie” Reyes cranked out another fine effort, retiring 13 straight at one point on the way to her 17th win of 2018. Now carrying a minuscule ERA of 1.07, and having recorded 221 strikeouts, Reyes rebounded from a difficult outing Friday to give her team the lift it needed. Senior Audrey Guerra was also a star in the clincher, cracking a homer, and now the Lady Sabes are onward.

Chavez had been the one Thursday with an eighth-inning dinger to wrap up a tense 5-4 triumph. But Friday was depressing as the team committed five errors and saw a close 5-3 contest deteriorate down the stretch for a 9-run loss.

Faced with elimination against one of the Valley’s powerhouse programs, on the road at that, Vela came out firing for all it had, and dominated the third game. Junior Alyssa Cedillo had two RBI Saturday, following a two-hit performance Friday, and made a handful of hustling defensive gems in the series.

Now for Alexander, a club with a solid senior pitcher and some serious team speed, with 65 stolen bases. The Lady Bulldogs got past La Joya in bi-district in three, and have seen their share of Valley teams in 2018.

They boast a win against McAllen Rowe but have lost to North and Mercedes. In district the Lady ‘Dogs split with Eagle Pass – EHS’s area opponent – but were swept by SA Southwest and South San. Alexander, fourth in District 29-6A, is not an offensive machine, averaging six runs per game, but the formula of pitching-defense-speed has worked well enough so far. Their main hurler is 16-6 with a 2.16 ERA but has surrendered 43 walks this year.

Vela counters with a .348 team clip at the plate good for seven runs per outing, meaning that the series will probably turn on execution, and mistakes. Chavez, who has driven in 42 runs now and clobbered 16 doubles, will once again be called upon to be an offensive standout, as the Lady Sabes look to keep their season going strong. Last year they finished 18-12 after a first-round loss to San Benito, and this time around have proven that the tag of potential they have worn for the past few campaigns has turned into one of excellence.

Aside from Guerra and Reyes, only outfielder Alyssa Alaniz is in her swan song season, and that portends well for the future. But now is now, and Vela, buoyed by a tremendous comeback and gut check versus a formidable foe, has to be considered a favorite to keep rising into the Rare Air of the softball playoffs.

The Weslaco series was won with clutch work from Reyes and Chavez, among others, but also with a fantastic spirit.

It happened with a real flourish as the Lady Sabes donned all sorts of fun and silly hats – chicken and shark heads, sombreros, others that defy ready description – and were making tons of racket throughout the three-game jam, with noisemakers natural and otherwise.

And now, it continues. The winner of Vela-Alexander will oppose the victor from a series matching South San and Harlingen South.