HARLINGEN — As you look up and down the Harlingen South softball roster, the one thing that sticks out is the team’s youth.
But while the lineup may be youthful, the 2016-17 Lady Hawks have sprung from their nest and have played like a group of wily veterans.
Of the starting nine, only two are seniors. The rest of the lineup is made up of two juniors, two sophomores and three freshmen. In fact, the top three in the batting order goes: sophomore, junior and sophomore.
The youth of the club at one point in the season was worrisome since South coaches didn’t know how the youngsters would react to the playoff atmosphere. However, it’s safe to say that the young flock has found its form.
After taking down perennial power Edinburg North then Laredo United in the first two rounds of the postseason, South now has a new challenge in South San Antonio, which most recently ousted San Benito from the playoffs.
Harlingen South has now won consecutive one-game playoffs and is riding high into their Class 6A regional quarterfinal.
The Lady Hawks lock horns with South San Antonio in a best-of-three series to be played at Cabaniss Field in Corpus Christi.
Game 1 begins at 7:30 tonight, Game 2 starts at 11:30 a.m. Saturday and Game 3, if needed, will be played 30 minutes after Game 2.
“The kids are enjoying their time in the playoffs,” said South coach Elias Martinez. “We’re crossing our t’s and dotting our i’s; that’s a little joke we have going, but the kids know it’s important to stay fundamentally sound. It’s been a tough season with all the injuries, but like I said last week, we’re getting healthy at the right time and it’s showing.”
The Lady Hawks will have their hands full against South San Antonio. The Lady Bobcats, like the Lady Hawks, are riding into this series hot and have relied on their youngsters in big spots.
South San Antonio’s offense broke out in games 2 and 3 against San Benito this past weekend and now the Lady Cats are staring at their second straight Valley opponent.
The Lady Hawks, meanwhile, will make a second trip to Cabaniss Field in as many weeks and have a taste of what it’s like playing there.
“We have a good idea on what they will bring,” said junior center fielder Kaitlynn De La Fuente. “It helps that we’ve played there already. The outfield there (at Cabaniss) is bigger than our field so as an outfielder, I’ve adjusted to it.”
Meanwhile, sophomore Krystal Gonzales said the team’s recent playoff experience has helped mentally prepare the Lady Hawks.
“Us coming this far means a lot; we’re trying extra hard for our seniors because we want them to have a memorable senior season,” said Gonzales. “Playing in back-to-back one-gamers is hard to pull through because we know it’s a win-or-go-home deal. But it’s all helped us grow up and gain experience, and now we are playing in a series and we feel like we’re ready to go.”