She had the magic Tuesday night, those kaleidoscope eyes flashing right along with the new scoreboard at EHS. On her 17th birthday, junior shortstop Maya Zavala did her own gifting against visiting Vela, breaking a scoreless tie in a memorable pitching duel with a sixth inning line-drive RBI double.

To complete the feat, she provided the thrill of the night by taking that double and one, tearing to third when the Lady Sabes slumbered, pre-timeout. Why not … Zavala continued on her wild ride, rolling all the way home on an errant throw to no one from a rattled foe.

The 2-0 EHS win pretty much salted away the league crown as it achieved a 3-game lead at 9-0 with five contests left. And it solidified the junior Zavala as one of the team’s most consistent producers in the clutch. Along with unsung but greatly talented classmate Kristee Salas, she is always a threat to break it open, as the Lady Bobcats are much more in aggregate than the physically notable stars such as Amber Reyes and Erika Cortez.

And yet is was Reyes, tried and true in the wars, who bunted her way on with two down and shortly thereafter steamed all the way home from first in that vital sixth, scoring on Zavala’s rocket into the gap. So many ways to hurt you.

And the way they dispatched Vela – after the Lady Sabes had played so well throughout – just reinforced the notion that if things roll right in the offing, this club could extend a ways in the state playoffs.

“That was two really good pitchers doing very well,” said Zavala afterward, wiping surprise cupcake off her face, courtesy of her mother and a wonderfully wicked teammate who shall not be named. “I was hoping we wouldn’t have to go to extra innings, but I know my team, they always end up pulling through.”

Zavala, among the team leaders in hits, runs, and RBI, added that she was just looking to make some strides at the plate.

“I have been working on letting the pitch come in,” said the shortstop, who got two hits Tuesday; the teams managed just three each. “I have been ahead of it a bit, so I just wanted to sit back and wait.”

Now about that fabulous play to ice the W. The one that caught everyone off guard, except No. 7.

“One of their infielders had the ball, and they were just walking toward the mound,” she recalled. “I was like, ‘can I do it?’ I just went for it, there wasn’t anyone covering third, nobody had called timeout yet. Once I got there I saw the throw go past me, so I knew I could come on in and score.”

Turns out that the Lady Bobcats (23-5 overall) had to hustle to close out Vela (6-3, 22-5), because Coach Jon Maples’ unit, which had failed to plate a run in a couple of early-inning opportunities, was not going to go quietly into the still, muggy/buggy night.

They got the lead runner on but then Cortez snared a soft liner off the bat of pinch hitter Evan Perez and flipped to first for a huge double play. Vela’s spunky Kat Montero, who has compiled a smart .500 average in part-time duty this season, later made it to first with a dramatic head-first dive on an infield single to keep the hopes alive. However, Cortez – who fanned eight – retired Gaby Villarreal on a pea that sliced the lower outside plate to end it.

Thus the Lady ‘Cats put some distance between themselves and the rest of the district heading into another test Friday, versus P-SJ-A Memorial. Tuesday they got a couple of running catches from their corner outfielders, Katy Truitt and Celeste Trevino, and a nice diving stab of a foul pop from catcher Shayla Garcia.

The Lady Sabes countered with an adept eight-strikeout effort from senior pitcher Monie Reyes and some hard-nosed work from third baseman Alyssa Cedillo, who fielded her spot cleanly and withstood a nasty, dusty fall while running the bases in the fourth to emerge unscathed.

The best chance for the visitor came in the fourth when they got two runners on with one out. But Cortez recorded a strikeout and Zavala (of course) ranged into short left field to snag a tricky looper from Montero to retire the side.

This was a taut tilt with excellent hurlers in the groove and the hits few and far between. Vela was loud and proud led by indefatigable, screeching cheers from Montero and others, and by the quest to unseat the Lady ‘Cats as queen of the league hill.

It came down to one sequence, as great games generally do, and the juncture that decided it was paced by Zavala, who got the key hit on her birthday, adding the insurance run on her well-timed mad dash for glory.

NOTES: The Lady ‘Cats were then surprised by Memorial, getting flattened 8-0 Friday. North and Vela each won, meaning that trio (including Memorial) is now at 7-2, just two back of the 9-1 EHS gang. This week EHS prepares for Grudge Match II by playing P-SJ-A Tuesday, while the Lady Coogs get Econ before Friday’s match at EHS. Vela has a big one Tuesday against Memorial before Friday’s clash versus Pharr North (5-5 heading into the week).