HARLINGEN — It’s tough to keep a good team down.
The Edinburg Vela Sabercats, ranked No. 1 in the Rio Grande Valley, showed their mettle Friday by rallying from a 2-1 deficit to defeat Harlingen South 4-2 thanks to a three-run outburst in the top of seventh inning at the Hawks’ diamond.
The Sabercats won 8-4 Thursday at home in Game 1 of the Class 6A best-of-three bi-district series, so Friday’s Game 2 victory gives Edinburg Vela a sweep of the Hawks and advances the team to next week’s area round of the playoffs to face McAllen High or Eagle Pass.
District 31-6A champion Vela improved to 24-4-1, and District 32-6A fourth-place South ended its season at 18-11.
“(South’s C.J. Grimaldo) was crafty, and he gave us a little bit of trouble (as we fell behind 2-1 through six innings),” Vela coach Jaime Perez said. “But at the end of the day, our team has a lot of experience, and I think that showed in the end. (During the seventh) we got some breaks, hit the ball real hard and we were able to score some runs.”
The Sabercats went into to the top of the seventh down by one run, but a four-hit outburst allowed them to rally and eventually win as Jaime Perez Jr., Justin Gomez, Frankie Zuniga and Nico Rodriguez each singled during the inning, with Gomez and Rodriguez accounting for RBIs. Teammate Ivan Mendoza also brought a run in with a fielder’s choice during the inning.
South only sent three batters to the plate in the bottom of the seventh, and two struck out.
“I saw this game as a real test for us,” said Vela’s Marc Esquivel, a senior right-hander who picked up the win with relief help in the seventh from Ramsey Amador. “We battled to the end, just like we always do. We never gave up, and kept fighting and fighting.
“My teammates gave me a chance on the mound, and we just kept battling to come out victorious at the end,” Esquivel added. “I’ve played with these guys for a while, and having them behind me (on the field) makes me feel real comfortable on the mound. I know I can trust them, and they trust me.
“A win like this is just giving us more momentum as we go into the second round of the playoffs. We just want to build on that and get better and better.”
During his six innings of work, Esquivel gave up six hits, striking out six batters and walking three. He also had a hit batsman.
The Sabercats took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on Eric Martinez’s solo homer over the left-field wall.
An RBI single by Nick Muniz during the bottom of the third enabled the Hawks to tie the score at 1. The Hawks went ahead 2-1 thanks to Luke Castellanos’ RBI single during the fourth.
The Sabercats outhit the Hawks 10-6, and each team committed an error.