No moment was too big for Jerry Perez in Rivera’s dramatic come-from-behind win over Harlingen High to clinch the District 32-6A championship Friday night.
The Raiders prevailed 8-7 in eight innings when Perez’s walkoff single and plated Alex Hernandez.
Before he knew it, Perez was swarmed by his teammates and soaked by the contents of the dugout water cooler.
“I was just trying to move the runner to third,” Perez said. “I just wanted to put the ball in play. It was unbelievable, this is a fantasy. This is a dream come true.”
After trailing 3-0, Rivera exploded for seven runs during an eventful fifth inning.
“I’m so proud of these boys,” Rivera coach Travis Parker said. “The first day we got together in the fall, we talked about our goals and aspirations for the team, and setting stuff up. This is something that we dreamed about, we worked so hard to get to this dream, and it’s so nice to see these guys execute, to play through the adversity of a game, through a season, through a series like this against a good ballclub in Harlingen.”
The Raiders loaded the bases with one-out singles from left fielder Raul Rosales, designated hitter Lazaro Valdez and Rey Rivera.
Third baseman John Ortega muffed a ground ball by right fielder Alan Eguia, allowing Rosales to score Rivera’s first run. Shortstop Michael Gomez lined an RBI single to right to narrow the lead to 3-2.
Rivera took the lead on a sacrifice fly from second baseman Omar Rodriguez. Ashton Adams caught the ball in foul territory, but his throw sailed wide of catcher Aaron Pacheco, allowing two runs to come across and move Gomez to third with two outs.
Gomez scored on an infield single when a diving Thomas Lyssy stopped the ground ball from Gonzalez at shortstop and threw from his knees, but Gonzalez beat the throw.
Pinch runner Emmanuel Leal scored on a pickoff attempt that went into left field. Ricky Ibarra and Jesus Ibarra each pounded out two more singles, ending Marroquin’s night. Rangel inserted John Kellogg on the mound to face Rosales.
Rosales singled to right to bring up Valdez. The Raiders capped a seven-run frame when Rosales issued a bases-loaded walk to Valdez.
After a issuing a hit by pitch to Lyssy and a walk to Ortega to start the sixth, Rey Rivera departed and Jerry Perez came on in relief. Perez hit Adams to load the bases and walked in another run to bring the score to 7-5.
The Cardinals scored two runs during the first inning, one in the second and four in the sixth to tie the game.
During the sixth, Harlingen High loaded the bases with one out and scored twice on a hit by pitch and a walk by relief pitcher Jerry Perez. Pinch-hitter Philip Guerrero tied the game with a long single to the right center gap to drive in two runs, but the Cardinals couldn’t muster another rally during the seventh or eighth innings.
Gomez said the Raiders have hardened their resolve throughout the ups and downs of their season.
“Most of the time, everyone’s against us,” Gomez said. “We just had to come together as a family, and that made us better because we grew closer together. We overcame all the adversity that was thrown at us to the best of our ability.”
Brownsville Rivera will face Edinburg North in the bi-district round of the Class 6A playoffs.