HARLINGEN — Thanks in part to a strong bullpen, the Harlingen Cardinals were able to dig themselves out of an early 2-1 hole.
The Cardinals used a three-run sixth inning and a two-run seventh to defeat the Harlingen South Hawks 6-2 on Friday evening at Hawks Field.
After dropping the first game to the Hawks on Tuesday, first-year Harlingen head coach Juan Rangel knew winning the second was imperative.
“We lost a hard one last time so we knew we would have to bounce back, especially since this district is going to be tough,” said Rangel. “We needed to bounce back and put our best effort out there and the team did a great job tonight, and I’m glad they were able to leave it all out there.
“Every game is big in this district and losing against a team twice was going to be hard, but being able to come to their place and take one after they won the first at ours is big and I’m glad the kids did a good job.”
Despite the loss, it was the Hawks who came out strong and scored the first run in the bottom of the first inning.
The Cardinals countered with a run of their own in the top of the third. Harlingen’s Isaias Ibarra hit a deep sacrifice fly to bring in Abel Flores.
In the bottom of the fourth, with the score tied 1-1 and a runner on second, South’s Trey Vento drove in teammate Dylan Carreon to give the Hawks a 2-1 lead heading into the fifth inning. However, the Hawks also stranded three runners on base in the frame.
Down 2-1 in the top of the sixth, Harlingen’s Nathan Ibarra hit an RBI single to the outfield that scored pinch runner Frank Rodriguez to even the score at 2-2. However, the Cardinals were not done and kept the foot on the gas. Two batters later, RJ Abundez hit a two-run RBI single that platted teammates Abraham Ibarra and Phil Guerrero to stretch the Cardinals’ lead to 4-2.
The Cardinals went to their bullpen not once, but three times in the game. Rangel’s third option was John Ortega, who came on in the bottom of the fourth and didn’t allow any further runs.
As Ortega explained, the pressure of being on the mound did not affect him one bit.
“It’s always a big game when you play in a Bird Bowl, especially for seniors,” said Ortega after the game. “Even though I’m not a senior, I know that the game means a lot to all of us and I know getting this win counts a lot.
“But I have to say that I like being in those pressure situations and I’ve always been the type of person to smile in those situations because you have to enjoy them since you are not always going to have them.”
In the seventh inning, Harlingen refused to rely on their 4-2 lead and added two extra runs. Bodey Flores added an RBI while Nathan Ibarra hit his second RBI of the evening bringing in Flores.