The Rio Grande City Rattlers are eagerly preparing for the upcoming 2019 baseball season with high hopes and confidence that they will match and even improve upon the accomplishments of the previous two seasons, in which they reached the second round of the state playoffs.
In 2018, the Rattlers finished in third place in District 31-5A with a 10-6 record. In the first round of the state playoffs, they defeated Brownsville Lopez 2-1 in a best-of-three series, overcoming a first game loss and inclement weather that forced game two to be suspended until the following day.
Game two was first moved from Rio Grande City to La Joya, but additional heavy rain forced that game to be suspended and resumed the following day in Edinburg. The Rattlers won that contest and the decisive third game in Harlingen.
In the second round, Corpus Christi Carroll defeated the Rattlers 2-0 in a best-of-three series. Rattler Head Coach Roque Cortinas noted that Carroll advanced two additional playoff rounds after defeating Rio.
Concerning the 2019 outlook, Cortinas emphasized, “Expectations are high this year as we return four on-the-field starters and two pitchers…I think this year’s team has the potential to be as good a team as we’ve had in several years…We as coaches and the players have high expectations and are eager to start the season. I definitely feel our team has the capabilities to win the district title.”
“We have a good mixture of veterans and talented youngsters, especially sophomores,” contended the coach. “…I think we will have a solid overall team…We had four freshmen who played vital roles last year. These players are a year older, more mature, and more experienced.”
Cortinas, about to begin his fourth season as the Rattler head coach, commented, “We’re hoping for improvement as a team this year. Improvement (in results and overall play) is what we seek every year.”
Cortinas pointed out that the 2019 Rattler team will have three seniors, one of whom is a four-year letterman and the two others are three-year lettermen. He added, “We don’t expect to carry any freshmen. We have four juniors and seven sophomores.”
About expected team strengths, he predicted, “Last year, pitching was our strength but I expect us to have a solid hitting attack…We’re hoping our pitching will at least match what we had last year. Our (pitching) rotation is deeper, which should help throughout the season. We hope for improvement in all areas, including pitching.”
Concerning the team’s batting abilities, Cortinas stressed, “We probably have the best combination of hitting for average and hitting for power that we’ve had in a while. We have guys throughout the batting order who can hit for both average and power. Most of our players are capable of consistently hitting for extra bases.”
Senior pitcher Osbaldo Perez won first team All-District honors in 2018 as he achieved an 8-4 record and 3.08 earned run average in district and playoff games. He also struck out 56 batters in 59 innings. Perez also is expected to play third base when he’s not on the mound. Cortinas noted that Perez “was our cleanup hitter last year” as he belted three home runs for the entire season. In district and playoff games, Perez drove in 10 runs while pounding two homers, one triple and four doubles.
Sophomore catcher Emmanuel Garza was the District 31-5A Newcomer of the Year in 2018 as he threw out 11 of 20 base runners attempting to steal. In district and playoff games, Garza batted .441, hammered six doubles, and drove in 13 runs. Cortinas declared, “He’s expected to handle the brunt of the catching duties this year. We’re expecting a lot from him.”
The coach emphasized, “I’m excited about our two sophomores, Eddie Garza and Marc Perez, at shortstop and second base. We expect them to provide good defense up the middle, and they should be capable hitters in the one and two spots.” Eddie Garza and Perez were both awarded second team All-District honors for their 2018 performances.
As a freshman who played third base in 2018, Eddie Garza compiled a .382 batting average with one homer, one triple and 10 RBIs. He blasted a homer in the second game of the second round playoff series against Corpus Christi Carroll.
Marc Perez belted three home runs during the entire 2018 season. In district and playoff games, he achieved a .333 batting average and a .617 slugging percentage with 10 RBIs, one homer, two triples and 10 doubles. In the three game playoff series against Brownsville Lopez, Perez pounded Lobo pitching at a 6 for 9 clip with one homer, two triples, two doubles and seven RBIs.
Sophomore Mike Ramos will be an essential part of the Rattler pitching rotation after gaining Honorable Mention All-District recognition last year. He compiled a 5-3 record and 2.49 ERA while striking out 46 batters in 50 innings. Cortinas stressed, “He was a solid second starter last year and played a key role in our success. He showed pitching capability beyond his years and displayed good command of the strike zone.”
Two other returning Rattler lettermen are senior outfielder-pitcher Noe Aguirre and senior infielder Memo Chapa, who is capable of playing all four infield positions if needed. Cortinas noted that Chapa is also available for pitching duties if the need arises.
The Rattler mentor indicated, “We have some newcomers that we expect to contribute, including sophomore first baseman-pitcher Emmanuel Saenz. Outfielders seeking playing time are junior A.B. Garza, junior Chris Cantu, and sophomore Eden Barrera. We have two utility players, juniors Raul Salinas and Ismael Salinas. Saenz and A.B. Garza saw some action last year.”
Cortinas predicted, “I’m expecting District 31-5A to be strong this year…I think the teams that did well last year can be expected to contend this year. The two Sharyland schools should again be tough. Palmview should have an experienced and talented team. They are traditionally a playoff contender.”
After realignment in 2018, which became effective in the fall semester, District 31-5A is comprised of the following eight schools – Rio Grande City, Roma, Mission Veterans, Sharyland, Sharyland Pioneer, La Joya Palmview, PSJA Memorial and PSJA Southwest. Valley View and three Laredo schools (Martin, Nixon and Cigarroa) were moved to other districts.
“Our school is developing a baseball tradition with our back-to-back bidistrict titles,” stressed the coach. “We have a really good freshman class coming in that should do really well in the future. Community support is very strong and continues to grow. Our fan base provides strong support at both home and away games.”
In the 2017 season, the Rattlers stampeded through district play with a 12-4 record, good for a strong third place finish, and defeated Brownsville Veterans 2-0 in the first round playoff series before coming up short 2-1 against Corpus Christi King in the second round best-of-three series.
The Rattlers will launch the regular season at home against the Edinburg High Bobcats on Monday, Feb. 18. They will open district play on March 12 against the Mission Veterans Patriots on the road.
The Rattlers’ district home opener is scheduled for March 14 against Mission Veterans. They will compete in preseason scrimmages on Feb. 2, 9, 12 and 15, with the final scrimmage coming at home against Weslaco East.