He was on fire Tuesday night; that much was apparent from the beginning of the biggest of big games. As the Sabes attempted to complete the quest for their first baseball title, Aaron Galvan alternated crisply against P-SJ-A, with peas at the knees and then sharp breaking balls that had the confused Bears grasping at straws. On his way to a 10-strikeout performance, the lefty senior threw many incredible pitches.
His two best tosses weren’t pitches, though.
Back-to-back pickoffs of base-runners in the fifth were the signature on this one, as the Sabes clamped down on a Bear rally to ease their way to an 8-1 victory, giving them the District 31-6A championship. Galvan’s pickoff move is so good, he caught the second Bear standing flat-footed off first; poor guy didn’t even budge, looking resignedly down to the dirt as first baseman Eric Martinez slapped the tag on.
This double whammy came after a long delay in the action, and actually the delay was action, too, as the teams looked about to rumble following a series of verbal skirmishes that had early punctuated this showdown for the crown. The Bears brought a ton of fans to Vela, their folding chairs marshaled six rows deep beyond the third-base line, plateward. And of course the SaberCat loyals were not to be outdone in vociferous voicing. By the time the teams had been corralled and headed, a Vela player had been ejected and P-SJ-A’s parent contingent was feeling a comeback. And vocalizing their emotions, so to say.
Then came the picks.
And it got awfully quiet over on the other side. Riiiiip!
The stunning sequence was just part of the drill for Galvan Tuesday, as he continually navigated out of mild jams with the right pitch. P-SJ-A (10-3) got a runner into scoring position during each of the first three frames but Galvan was equal to the challenge, delivering off-speed riddles that the Bears just could not solve.
Meanwhile Vela fired out early for a 2-0 lead in the first, getting a sacrifice fly from senior Joey Recio and a Bear error to start strong. Coach Jaime Perez’ club strung together five of its 10 hits in the third, going up 4-0, and in the fifth, Recio sealed the deal with a two-run double.
It all added up to the first district championship in school history.
“My velocity was there, I was bringing something behind my fastball,” said Galvan, a four-year standout who has overcome injury problems in 2018 to regain his form and pace the charge toward the ring. “I am 100 percent healthy now and I have worked with Coach Blake LaGrange on mechanics. I have been trying to be effortless out there, throw easy.”
The veteran lefty smiled when it came to discussing his crafty looks to first out of the stretch, on which it was impossible to tell whether he was going to the plate or to base. In that way he had gotten a Bear off first in the second inning too, before his own personal double play in the fifth.
“Got into a bit of a hole there after the argument,” he admitted, noting that such delays in the action can be detrimental to a pitcher’s mojo. “I was a little cold, but luckily I was able to catch those guys leaning the wrong way.”
Galvan has also hit with ease (.519) and productivity (33 RBI), making him an MVP candidate along with the fiery Ramsey Amador (.538, 27 RBI, 12 doubles).
Now it’s on to the playoffs, where the Sabes will take on Brownsville Hanna, fourth seed from 32-6A, in bi-district. Perez, who was an assistant for the school’s initial two campaigns (12-43 record before a steady rise to prominence began), was all smiles afterward.
“We did a good job at the plate tonight, trying to drive the pitch count up, have good at-bats,” he said. “We have a real rivalry with the Bears, they have won five district titles and we wanted to take it from them, at home. Galvan is our big-game guy, if you look at the records, he always seems to pitch real well when we need it. This may have been his best game of the year.”
Along with Hill College signee Recio (four RBI), senior college signee Matt de la Cruz went 3 for 4 with a two-run inside-the-park homer in the sixth. Vela finished off with a victory over Econ Friday and now looks for a long and profitable playoff run.
“Recio has put in the work and the culmination you saw tonight from him. He is part of the group of guys we have at first base,” said Perez. “We have a lot of talented individuals and a nice mix of experience and youth.”
Other Sabes who have chipped in for the crown include third baseman Yulean Torrellas (12 steals), Joey Esquivel (six wins, .317 average), and steady outfielder Jonathan Navarro, all juniors. The team hits .379 with an average of eight runs per game, and despite being a free-swinging bunch has drawn 124 walks against 132 strikeouts. The Sabes have stolen 73 bags (Amador and de la Cruz 13 each) and amassed 103 extra-base hits, with 23 homers. Amador leads the team with 19 walks while Rodriguez has earned 16.
NOTES: EHS tried to help North out by beating Pharr North in the finale Friday, but the Coogs came up short against P-SJ-A, 3-2. As a result, North finished tied with the Raiders for third in 31-6A (at 9-5) and because the Coogs dropped the season series with PN, they fell to the fourth seed and a date with 32-6A champ Los Fresnos (22-7) in bi-district.
The Bobcats fought their way to a creditable 7-7 mark in 2018 and will return the lion’s share of roster members next season. Econ (3-11) wound up with a clinching defeat against Vela.