The baseball season came to an end for North Saturday but the Coogs outperformed many expectations in 2018 in the face of mass graduation losses. They took Los Fresnos, 32-6A king, to three games in bi-district before dropping out.
Their defeat leaves just one city club still kicking: league champ Vela, which is on to the area round after wasting Harlingen in two blowouts over the weekend. The SaberCats now prepare to meet Eagle Pass, which stopped La Joya with two shutouts in bi-district.
The North series was much closer than Vela’s, as the teams traded comeback 5-4 decisions heading into the clincher, the Falcons having erased a 4-2 deficit in the last inning at home Thursday and the Coogs having launched from down 4-1 to a 4-run fifth at home the next night.
Relief pitching was a downer for North in Game One as the Coogs could not find the plate in the late innings. But in Game Two, Argelio Guajardo trotted in from center field to retire the final five batters for a thrilling save. North cranked out six of its nine hits in that fifth frame, including back-to-back doubles from Joey Salinas and catcher Robert Flores. The other big blows of the rally were a pinch-hit single by Michael Anzaldua that tied things, followed by a single by Junior Almeida and a run-scoring balk that plated what proved to be the winning tally.
Coach Rick Valdez also got a fielding gem late in the night, as freshman first baseman Carlos Acosta dived to stop a shot off a Los Fresnos bat and got to the bag in time to retire the side in the Falcon sixth. This outstanding effort came with two runners on.
Frankie Zuniga pitched into the sixth Friday, and Valdez says that the junior infielder is a real competitor.
“With Frankie, we just ask him to go out there and compete, keep it close, and give us a chance,” he explained. “And when our 3-4-5 guys come up in the order, if we can’t drive in some runs, we don’t deserve to win, simple as that.”
Valdez knew coming in that even though Los Fresnos had captured the district crown down in 32-6A, the 1 vs. 4 series would be a tossup.
“Right, we thought that actually, their team was a lot like ours,” he said. “Use some small ball, get pitching that throws strikes and puts the ball in play, rely on good team defense. We figured it was an even matchup, and it turned out to be that.”
Saturday Los Fresnos got it together for a strong effort, whipping the Coogs, 11-2, and advance now to face Mission, a victor over SA Southwest in the first round.
SABERCATS ASCEND; EAGLE PASS ON TAP
Meanwhile 31-6A titlist Vela, working against Harlingen after a late shuffle to the 32-6A standings sent Rivera out and the Cardinals in, had little issue in Game One Friday, winning 10-0 in six innings at home.
Senior Aaron Galvan continued his late-season rush with six shutout innings, fanning nine and adding a home run early on. Nico Rodriguez also went yard in the rout, while junior Yulean Torrellas – who has provided speed on the bases and toughness at third base this season – hammered in two runs with a triple.
That game was played in a steady drizzle, and the next day the SaberCats rained on the underdog’s parade to advance to the area round with a victory at Harlingen. Adam Alviso improved to 8-0 for the season with a complete game effort Saturday, and teammates Joey Recio (three RBI) and Eric Martinez (two hits, three runs) swung the main lumber.
Now it is Eagle Pass, a near .500 club for much of the season that appears to be peaking at the optimal time. The Eagles started very slowly in some tough tournaments but did manage a win against Brownsville Vets and only lost to McAllen High by two runs. In league play, Eagle Pass lost twice to SA Southwest and South San Antonio, finishing in a three-way tie for first in 29-6A.
The winner of the Vela-EP series takes on the Los Fresnos-Mission winner in the regional quarterfinals. New Braunfels-Madison and O’Connor-Churchill are the area matchups on Vela’s side of the 6A bracket.