The truth is, players and coaches approach a game one way, media and fans another. Meaning that the further a person is from the actual action, the more they will talk about last year, winning streaks, and the like. The kids and coaches, they are working to win the next at-bat or play in the field, generally, tunnel vision and concentrated focus. But sometimes they do remember.
And so it was that Vela traveled down Closner to North Tuesday, yes, to open the latest District 31-6A season, and maybe yes, to avenge last season’s wild 10-9 loss to the Cougars, which took place amid controversy, hard feelings, and some rough stuff.
This time, when the SaberCats got a big lead, they clamped down, unwilling to be the victims of a monumental comeback again. They absolutely erased the Coogs, 14-0 behind a 12-strikeout four-hitter from fireballing senior Nico Rodriguez and a 13-hit attack that saw six guys get two apiece.
Vela (1-0, 11-4) jumped on North starter Max Aguilar for four in the first – three coming off a tremendous 430-foot home run by slugger Eric Martinez – and extended the lead to 9-0 after just three frames.
North (0-1, 6-11) never got anything going off Rodriguez, headed to Kansas State next season, going three-up, three-down three times running as the Sabes built the insurmountable lead. The closest it came to a run was in the fifth, but with the bases loaded, Rodriguez rebounded to escape unscathed; throughout, he relied on high heat and the occasional paralyzing breaking ball.
On the other side, Ramsey Amador continued a recent hot streak with two hits and leadoff man Ivan Mendoza had two with two RBI. Junior shortstop Isaac Lopez (with Amador playing at third base Tuesday) bunted for a single and later hit a two-run triple as Vela breezed to the W.
With soph catcher Mito Perez sidelined by illness, junior Eddie Salinas got the call behind the plate while two ex Coogs, seniors Frankie Zuniga and Marc Esquivel, saw action for Vela. Esquivel went 2 for 2 and then got ready for a mound assignment Thursday against Econ, while Zuniga walked in the second and steamed to third after a poor pickoff throw to first, eventually scoring.
North senior Mike Anzaldua took the hill for the final three innings of this six-frame rout, and tossed two innings of zeroes before surrendering five in the sixth.
Rodriguez walked twice and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, and was dominant on the mound, firing bullets all night, walking just one. He also showed his athleticism on a comebacker in the third, pouncing on a difficult topper to his right and wheeling to nail the runner by a half-step. He gave up just two hard-hit balls, a flyout by Argelio Guajardo, and a line single from Ivan Garza. Other than that, there was a whole lot of swing-and-a-miss from the Gold and Blue.
On Thursday, North rebounded with a win against Donna North while Vela clobbered Econ, 16-2, Esquivel earning the pitching decision. The Cougar victory was dramatic, as the Chiefs led 8-5 before North stormed back for seven runs in the seventh. Robert Flores was a monster with three hits and four RBI.
BOBCATS FLAT IN LEAGUE OPENER
EHS began its district season Thursday at home, losing to Weslaco East, 8-5. It was a somewhat disappointing start for the Bobcats, who came in on a 4-game winning streak having scored 46 runs and allowed just five in that stretch.
After giving up eight runs in the first two innings, the ‘Cats shut down East from there behind 5 1/3 innings of scoreless relief from junior righty Brayan Salazar. Offensively, freshman Darren Barrera drove in two runs and the team chipped away gradually. Despite getting multiple runners on in the final frames, EHS could not make up the deficit on a night where it had more errors (five) than hits.
CF Ryan Ochoa batted leadoff for the ‘Cats and scored twice, also turning a fly ball into a double play in the seventh, while speedy infielder Brandon Morin walked and singled, stealing a base.