South rekindles playoff magic, slugs past Eagle Pass

CORPUS CHRISTI — There seems to be some kind of magic when Harlingen South plays at Corpus Christi’s Cabaniss Field.

The past two years, the Lady Hawks have walked away with dramatic playoff wins and Harlingen South found that magic again Saturday.

The Lady Hawks overcame a four-run deficit, leaning on the bats of Kayla Rogers and Christina Arellano in an 8-6 win over Eagle Pass to take the one-game playoff in the Class 6A area round.

“Honestly, I was shaky at first,” Rogers said. “I was hoping I wouldn’t mess up. I asked my mom to pray with me and I just kept my composure, and I couldn’t have done it without my parents or my teammates. They were the ones that kept me going and believing in me.”

Harlingen South is back in the third round for a third straight year. South will meet PSJA North with the time and place to be decided.

“What happened was the jitters, we have a young ballclub and the jitters got us in the beginning,” South coach Elias Martinez said. “In softball there is always adversity and its how you handle it and our girls handled it with class like we always do. We just kept plugging away.”

Harlingen South held an 8-6 lead in the sixth inning when Eagle Pass’ Brooke Diaz hit a two-run home run with one out. The home run was called back, though, as the runner on second was judged to have left the base early and called for the second out. One pitch later, Diaz flew out to left field to end the threat.

“Yes, she left early, and we had been telling the officials all game that their runners were leaving the base early,” Martinez said. “So they were looking at it and they caught it that time. That is why we have officials.”

Said South pitcher Iliana Saucedo, “When I saw the ball leave, I thought, ‘Oh no, now we have to come back.’ I was confident either way. I knew we would come back. I didn’t sweat it. The umpire was waiving his hands up and said no play, so I just started jumping and screaming. It was crazy.”

Eagle Pass jumped on South starter Kylie Ruiz for a four-run first inning. Eagle Pass’ biggest lead was 5-3 during the third inning.

The big inning was the fourth inning. After back-to-back singles from Arellano and Kelsey Rivera, Rogers drove in two runs on a triple and scored on an errant throw to give South its first lead at 6-5.

“Coach sent me home. I was shocked because I saw the catcher with the ball, but once she missed it I knew I was safe at third. But then I saw the catcher didn’t have control, so with a gut feeling I ran home,” Rogers said.

Arellano is no stranger to Cabaniss’ field or big moments. She laced a two-run double that gave South an 8-6 lead during the fifth inning. Arellano finished the night 2-for-3 with one run and two RBIs. Rogers went 1-for-2 with a sacrifice bunt, three RBIs and one run scored.

“Anytime we meet up with Eagle Pass something crazy is going to happen,” Martinez said. “That is just how it is with Eagle Pass, and their coach is a good friend of mine. He is very intense and I’m very intense, and it is all on the field and our girls respond to that, and I couldn’t be more proud of our girls.”

Ruiz went 2 1/3 innings in the circle, and Saucedo entered in relief during the third inning. Saucedo finished the game, keeping the Eagle Pass offense off balance. Saucedo went 4 2/3 innings, allowing two hits, one walk and one run.

She also went 2-for-4 at the plate with a single and a triple.

“I was nervous coming into the game and I’m never nervous, but today’s game was stomach-turning for me,” Saucedo said. “I thought there was a possibility that I’d come in and pitch, and I just stayed ready for it. The coaches just wanted me to keep the ball low, and as the game went on I gained confidence.”