It appears that the ECISD baseball tourney is here to stay, as more than 20 teams competed in the second edition last week, with each town nine hosting a slice of the three-day event.
The tourney gave coaches a good chance to assess their talent and tinker with rosters and lineups, with district play right around the bend. And each of the four locals noted things to like and to improve Thursday through Saturday.
North coach Rick Valdez saw his team start well with a pair of wins Thursday, catcher Robert Flores bombing a three-run home run for one of the victories. But the Coogs hit the snag Friday, dropping games against Sharyland and La Joya by a combined score of 24-5.
“We’re pretty young in some spots but we have seen a lot of hustle and effort from the guys,” said the second-year coach, who has long-time Econ softball mentor Lonnie Garza on his staff for 2019. “We’ve had some surprises, and we still need to work on our pitching rotation.”
One such surprise has been shortstop Kenny Jobe, who has not played in two years but is now becoming a part of the North drill. Sophomore hurler Jacob Paez started against La Joya and though he struggled somewhat, is a big kid with some stuff. Jobe is hitting at a .333 clip while Flores and Carlos Acosta have done well at the dish; senior Argelio Guajardo leads the team in most offensive categories, once again.
Over at Econ, the Jags are battling through a poor start, capped by a 17-0 loss to Pioneer Friday. Coach Rigo Sanchez is undaunted, as always.
“We’re just trying to find ways to win, but we haven’t been very consistent,” said Sanchez, whose group played well against Edcouch-Elsa in a Thursday loss. “I have been making some changes, trying to find better defense; we’ve just made too many errors so far.”
Sanchez, who tabbed freshman J.P. Eureste as a solid prospect among others, said that when the Jags earned the playoff grade back in 2017, they were adept at making the plays.
“The key is, not extending innings, giving teams four or five outs to work with,” he explained. “If you can just get off the field and come to the plate, it helps everything get better.”
The Bobcats enjoyed a pair of wins Friday, over Donna and McAllen Rowe, putting a healthy 23 runs across. This after an 0-2 start Thursday, leading to Saturday’s tourney clincher against Roma.
Some of the youngsters for EHS have picked up steam, including sophomores Jorge Salinas (.425 average, 11 RBI) and Arturo Martinez (.452). Freshman pitcher Darren Barrera has fanned 23 batters in 17 innings, including 10 on the tourney win over Donna. He’s also driven in 10 runs from the plate.
As expected, Vela was one of the strongest units at the ECISD, beating Mission Vets, McAllen Memorial, and Valley View before being blanked Friday thanks to a no-hitter thrown up by a Harlingen South pitcher. Senior Ramsey Amador has come alive after a slow start, and was 7 for 12 in the tourney, including a 3-for-3 (with a homer) showing in a win over Mission Vets. Sophomore A.J. Sotelo, back from a football injury, also homered against Vets, and the Sabes have gotten three round-trippers from vet Eric Martinez so far, two by Jonathan Navarro. Sophomore Jestin Gomez has raced to 12 stolen bases already.
On the final day of the tourney, EHS scored another strong W, 10-0 against Roma to finish a 3-2 weekend, while North tied Rowe 5-5 for a 2-1-1 showing. Econ went down against Vets for an 0-5 record at the ECISD, and Vela was clipped by Pioneer, 6-2 to cap a 3-2 mark. The Diamondbacks won top bracket honors with Sharyland first in the second list.
This week’s baseball schedule is topped by the opening of the league campaign, with North at Vela Tuesday and then Econ-Vela Friday. EHS has a non-district warmup against Lyford Tuesday before starting 31-6A Thursday versus Weslaco East, at home.
NOTES: At the annual Cats Relays Thursday-Friday, the Econ girls won the team title and the Vela boys, fresh off the Border Olympics crown, topped the group.