With the help of clutch pitching, aggressive base running, and timely defense, the Rio Grande City Rattlers achieved a dramatic 7-5 victory over the Sharyland Pioneer Diamondbacks in a District 31-5A contest in Rio Grande City Tuesday night, with the win being in serious jeopardy until the final pitch.
The tension-filled victory in their last regular season home game of 2019 improved the Rattlers’ district record to 10-3. They edged a Diamondback team that also has clinched a playoff berth.
In preserving the win, the Rattlers overcame a one-out bases loaded crisis in the top of the seventh. Relief pitcher Noe Aguirre struck out the final two Pioneer hitters and registered five strikeouts in two innings as he was credited with the save. Aguirre pitched his way through a situation that occurred when the Diamondbacks loaded the bases on a hit batsman and two walks.
Aguirre entered the game in the top of the sixth to relieve senior righthander Osbaldo Perez, who pitched the first five innings and was credited with the victory as he struck out six batters and allowed seven hits and one walk.
The Rattlers got off to a fast start, scoring four runs in the bottom of the first and holding a 5-1 lead after three innings. The Diamondbacks struck back with three runs in the fourth and added another run in the fifth. The Rattlers stayed in front by scoring one run each in the fourth and sixth innings.
Emanuel Saenz had a hot night at the plate with a two-run homer, a single and two RBIs. Osbaldo Perez was 2 for 2 with a double, a single and one RBI, and Eden Barrera added an RBI single. Marc Perez had one single, stole three bases, scored two runs, and reached second on a strikeout that resulted in a passed ball. Perez also scored from second base in the sixth on a throwing error by a Pioneer infielder. Eduardo “Eddie” Garza also contributed a first inning RBI double.
After the Diamondbacks were retired in order in the top of the first, the Rattlers exploded for four runs in their first at-bat. Marc Perez led off with a ground ball single to left and stole second with nobody out. Eduardo “Eddie” Garza slammed a line drive over the third baseman’s head and scampered into second with a double as Perez easily scored for a 1-0 Rattler lead. With one out, Osbaldo “Baldo” Perez hit a ground ball single up the middle to score Garza and boost the Rattlers’ margin to 2-0.
Emanuel Saenz then belted a long drive that sailed over the left field fence for a two-run homer, increasing Rio’s advantage to 4-0. The Diamondback pitcher got out of the inning without further damage as he struck out the next two hitters.
In the top of the second, Jacob Rosales singled to right with one out and reached second on a balk. With two outs, Oscar Serna singled to left and Rosales was allowed to automatically score as base path obstruction was called on the Rattlers, reducing Rio’s margin to 4-1. The next hitter grounded into a force play to end the inning.
In the bottom of the third, Baldo Perez drew a two-out walk. Emanuel Saenz hit a sharp ground ball single just to the left of the shortstop and the courtesy runner raced to third. Eden Barrera then hammered a sharp single to left just out of the shortstop’s reach to give the Rattlers a 5-1 cushion. The Diamondback pitcher struck out the next hitter with two men on base to end the inning.
The Diamondbacks countered with three runs in the top of the fourth. With one out, Johnny Lugo singled to center and Jacob Rosales drew a walk. Angel Nunez was hit by a pitch to load the bases. The next hitter popped out to first for the second out, but Rey Hernandez slashed a ground ball single to right to drive in two runs. Trey Gonzalez then lined a single to right to score another run and reduce Rio’s advantage to 5-4.
With two runners on base, Juan Rivera hit a grounder to the left side and the throw got away from the first baseman, but the first baseman threw to third base and the runner leaning off third was tagged out to end the inning.
With one out in the bottom of the fourth, Mike Ramos lined a single to center. The courtesy runner stole second and reached third on a wild pitch. Marc Perez struck out, but the ball got away from the catcher, allowing the runner to score and Perez scampered all the way to second. Perez stole third base, but the inning ended with a 6-4 Rattler lead when the next two hitters struck out.
In the top of the fifth, leadoff hitter Pedro Ovillas slammed a line drive triple that rolled all the way to the right field fence. With one out, Johnny Lugo hit a drive to deep left center that was caught by the Rattler centerfielder, but Ovillas scored on the sacrifice fly to move Pioneer to within 6-5.
Baldo Perez led off the bottom of the fifth with a line drive double that rolled all the way to the centerfield fence. The Rattlers could not capitalize on the opportunity as the Pioneer pitcher escaped the situation with a strikeout, an infield pop fly, and another strikeout.
Senior righthander Noe Aguirre took the mound for the Rattlers in the top of the sixth. The leadoff hitter slashed a line drive single to center, but Aguirre struck out the next two batters on 3-2 pitches. The runner on first tried to steal second, but Rattler catcher Emmanuel Garza threw a perfect strike and the runner was tagged out to end the inning.
With one out in the bottom of the sixth, Mike Ramos struck out, but reached first when the ball got away from the catcher. Marc Perez hit an infield blooper that was dropped by the second baseman, but the runner was forced out at second. Perez stole second and Eddie Garza hit an infield bouncer to third, but the throw sailed past the first baseman, enabling Perez to score and Garza to reach second base. The next hitter struck out on a 3-2 pitch to end the inning, and the Rattlers entered the top of the seventh with a 7-5 advantage.
Aguirre struck out the Diamondbacks’ leadoff hitter, but Juan Rivera reached base when he was hit by a 1-2 pitch. The next two batters walked on 3-2 pitches to load the bases with one out. Aguirre struck out the next hitter swinging on a 2-2 pitch for the second out, but the bases remained loaded. Aguirre then put the game away by striking out Jacob Rosales swinging on an 0-2 pitch, enabling the Rattlers to clinch a hard-earned 7-5 triumph.
The Rattlers, now 10-3 in district play and assured of a playoff berth for the third straight year, will end the regular season this Friday at 7 p.m. with a rematch against the Diamondbacks in Sharyland. The loss to Rio ended a seven-game winning streak for the Diamondbacks and left them with a 10-3 district record. The Sharyland Rattlers entered Tuesday night’s game against PSJA Memorial with a 10-2 district mark.