Gradually, the Lady Sabercats started to hack away at the plate, and with a no-nonsense sophomore throwing peas all night, it was only a matter of time before Vela earned the win.
Starting the District 31-6A softball season on the road at North Tuesday, part of the Vela equation was the question, How would the program’s Young Guns handle the pressure of a city rivalry night. With three seniors sidelined with injury, Vela went to war with an underclass army, and weathered the bigness of the challenge well, pounding out 13 hits in support of hurler Bri Salinas. The sophomore spun a 5-hit shutout to cap a 9-0 Lady Sabe victory in which five girls – 5-6-7-8-9 in the lineup, by the by – contributed two hits each.
Salinas, who got two hits and drove home a pair in the fifth with a single, was masterful on the hill against experienced senior Nat Rodriguez, who left in the latter stages with an injury. By then it was all over, the Lady Sabes (17-3 overall) having begun the league chase with an excellent victory.
An infield error by North (13-5) led to a 1-0 Vela lead in the second, and on a very chilly evening fielding was not a strong suit for either nine, as indicated when the rivals split eight miscues, four each. With two down in the fourth, senior Kameryn Casares socked a double off the wall for a 2-0 lead, and then in the fifth the game turned for good.
Evan Perez bunted her way on and stole, eventually coming around on a hit from Salinas which also plated Monee Montilla. Ahead 4-0, Vela kept the Lady Coogs off the board in the bottom half thanks to a terrific defensive reaction from star shortstop Taylor Chavez.
After soph Mara Guerra of North bunted safely, the Lady Coogs worked into a prime scoring opportunity with runners on second and third,no outs. On a grounder to short, senior Chavez hopped on the ball and fired to the plate, catcher Kat Montero applying the tag. North, donning cool pinstripe uniforms for the first time in 15 years or more, had the bases loaded later when Salinas induced a comeback to end the threat. That failure to get runs repeated a similar situation two innings prior, when Salinas had gotten Patty Davila to fly to right with the sacks filled. Not cashing their chances killed the home girls.
In the final two frames Vela erupted for five runs to ice it, getting three doubles in the sixth – by Julia Cordon, Gaby Villarreal, and the powerful Montilla – to plate a trio of tallies, and then three singles good for two more runs in the seventh.
In the second inning, a group of Lady Bobcats showed up at North to do some scouting; EHS was idle for the slate’s first run and no doubt wanted to see which of its rivals would jump more quickly out of the gates.
It ended up being the blackclad Lady Sabes as sophomores Salinas and Karina Guzman joined junior Deandra Longoria in 2-hit forays to the dish, seniors Casares and Cordon also knocking two safeties.
North had its moments, including a 7-2-3 putout in the fourth which erased a Vela run at the plate, and a sweet catch in center from sophomore Melo Cantu in the sixth that robbed Salinas of what might have been a home run had it not been snagged up high. Davila also showed her skills around the bag with a neat scooping save in the first for a putout.
Stellar senior catcher Hope Rodriguez whacked a hit Tuesday but was walked twice intentionally, a strategy Vela has used in the past to keep the dangerous slugger from wreaking havoc, which she is wont to do.
Vela then set a program record with a 26-run outburst against Econ Friday, dropping the Lady Jags to 0-2. North rebounded with a 15-0 drubbing at Donna North, while EHS got off to a nice clip with a 13-3 pounding of Weslaco East. Tuesday would bring a giant task for the Lady Sabes, at Weslaco, while EHS was to travel to North for the first installment of the annual Grudge Match. Econ faced a winnable contest at home against Donna North. Thursday’s day-game slate looks like this: Lady Jags-EHS at 11 a.m., Lady Coogs at East, same time.