HARLINGEN — Behind Jacob Marroquin’s complete game, Harlingen High eased to a 5-0 victory in the Bird Bowl series finale against Harlingen South on Thursday night at Harlingen High.
“It doesn’t feel good to lose the series against them,” Cardinals coach Armando Rangel said. “But you know what, we got a win when we needed one.”
Marroquin was efficient, shutting down a South offense averaging six runs per game (and that had scored 10 runs during the past two Bird Bowl meetings) in the win for the Cardinals (17-10, 10-3 32-6A). Against the Hawks (16-9-2, 7-6 32-6A), he struck out the side in the first inning and retired the next three South hitters in order in the third.
Losing pitcher Nick Muniz struck out the side in his first inning of work for the Hawks.
“(Tuesday) they beat us with our top guy out there,” Rangel said. “And we said, ‘Let’s return the favor.’”
Both teams threatened to score in the second. After Marroquin hit designated hitter Edgar Arreola with a pitch to lead off the frame, catcher Kike Alvarado delivered a single to right to give South runners on first and second with one out.
First baseman Luke Castellanos hit a slow comebacker to Marroquin, who tossed to third baseman John Ortega to get Arreola for the second out. Marroquin walked AB Terron to load the bases and then came back to strike out shortstop Chase Roberts on a ball in the dirt to end the threat.
Marroquin said he followed instructions from his coaching staff to throw outside and kept South’s hitters on their toes with control of his curveball.
“I’ve played with more than half of their team over there,” Marroquin said. “I just know them really well, where they can hit and where they can’t.”
The Cardinals failed to score in the second despite having a runner on third with less than one out. But Harlingen High broke through in the middle innings, scoring two runs in the third, one in the fourth and two in the fifth.
During the third, left fielder Abraham Ibarra split the gap in right center with an RBI double and came around to score himself on an overthrown pick off attempt to stake Harlingen High to a 2-0 lead.
The Hawks knocked on the door again when right fielder Carlos Martinez smacked a one-out double that went to the fence in right-center. But Marroquin navigated his way out of the inning, getting first baseman Luke Castellanos on a called third strike to end the frame.
Muniz issued one-out walks to first baseman George Stillman and center fielder Frank Rodriguez to start the bottom of the fourth. Second baseman Abel Flores lined an RBI single to right, scoring Stillman and increasing Harlingen High’s lead to 3-0.
Ibarra singled to right to begin the Cardinals’ fifth-inning rally. After a throwing error and a sacrifice bunt put Ibarra 90 feet away from home, South brought in Xander Casarez to face right fielder Ashton Adams with runners on first and third and one out.
Ibarra scored on another throwing error that sent Ortega to third, and Adams drove home Ortega to put Harlingen High ahead 5-0.
Harlingen High’s solid defense, including two highlight-reel catches from its corner outfielders, helped Marroquin preserve the shutout. Adams turned and tracked down a fly ball over his head off the bat of South’s David Torres to end the top of the fifth, and Ibarra sprinted from straightaway left field to the foul line to make a sliding shoestring catch to end the top half of the sixth.
“Our defense was behind him 100 percent, and (Marroquin) got better as he went,” Rangel said. “He did an awesome job for us.”
The Cardinals have two games left against Brownsville Rivera to close out their regular season.