With the help of outstanding pitching, excellent defense, and timely hitting, the Rio Grande City Rattlers defeated the highly ranked Gregory-Portland Wildcats twice on Saturday, May 11 by scores of 6-3 and 5-3 to achieve a 2-1 series win and advance to the third round of the Class 5A state playoffs.
The Rattlers advanced to the Regional IV semifinals and will face the Sharyland Pioneer Diamondbacks in a best-of-three series beginning Thursday evening. Game one will be played at Sharyland at 7 p.m. Thursday, game two will take place in Rio Grande City at 7 p.m. Friday, and game three, if necessary, is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday in Mission. All four playoff teams from District 31-5A, including Sharyland Pioneer, advanced to the third round and are among 32 5A teams throughout Texas still in the playoffs.
With the two victories Saturday in Rio Grande City, the Rattlers defeated the No. 7 team in the 5A Texas High School Baseball rankings. The Wildcats entered Saturday’s games with a 30-2 overall record for the 2019 season. The two victories guaranteed that 2019 will be remembered as one of the greatest seasons in Rattler baseball history.
The Rattlers had to fight off serious late inning rallies by the Wildcats in both Saturday games, especially in the second and deciding contest.
The Wildcats entered the seventh inning of game three trailing 5-1, but the first four hitters reached base to reduce the margin to 5-3 and the tying run was on first with nobody out. With one out, the Wildcat hitter slammed a sharp liner into left center for a seemingly certain extra base hit, but Rattler centerfielder A.B. Garza made an exceptional running catch to prevent a game-tying double or triple. Rattler relief pitcher Marc Perez induced the next hitter to ground into a force play to end the game and series.
In Saturday’s first game, which the Rattlers won 6-3, the Wildcats scored three runs in the final two innings to threaten a seemingly secure Rattler victory. In the seventh inning, the Cats scored one run and had the tying run at the plate before Rattler starter Mike Ramos retired the final two hitters.
In game two of the series, sophomore Rattler righthander Mike Ramos pitched a complete game eight-hitter to enable Rio to tie the series. Ramos recorded seven strikeouts and allowed only four hits in the first five innings.
In the game three 5-3 win by the Rattlers, senior righthander Noe Aguirre gave up only one run and three hits in the first six innings and wound up with eight strikeouts. He left four runners stranded in scoring position prior to the seventh inning. Sophomore Marc Perez took the mound in relief of Aguirre three batters into the seventh and was able to accomplish the final three outs.
The series opener Friday night in Portland was a tight battle which the Wildcats won 2-0. G-P broke a scoreless tie with two runs in the bottom of the sixth. The game was a pitcher’s duel as Wildcat starter Isaac Ponce pitched a complete game shutout and Rattler senior righthander Osvaldo Perez tossed a complete game five-hitter.
In the decisive game three, the Rattlers started fast with three runs in the bottom of the first. Leadoff hitter Marc Perez drew a walk, and Eduardo “Eddie” Garza hit a high bouncer that scooted over the third baseman’s glove for a double. Emmanuel Garza hit a high pop fly that the catcher caught in foul territory, but Osvaldo “Baldo” Perez was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out. Emmanuel Saenz walked on a 3-1 pitch to force in a run and give Rio a 1-0 lead, with the bases still loaded.
The Wildcat pitcher got the crucial second out when Eden Barrera was called out on strikes on a 3-2 pitch. On an 0-2 pitch, Jose “Memo” Chapa hit a line drive that glanced off the shortstop’s glove for a two-run single. Noe Aguirre struck out swinging on a 3-2 pitch to end the inning, but the Rattlers emerged from the first with a 3-0 lead.
In the top of the third, the leadoff Wildcat hitter drew a walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch. With one out, Easton Dow hit a sharp ground single to left to put runners on first and third. Malachi Lott hit a slow bouncer to the right side and the runner was forced at second, but a run scored to trim the Rattler lead to 3-1. Walker Ginnett drew a walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch. The G-P runners reached second and third on a double steal, but Aguirre struck out the next hitter looking to end the inning.
Emmanuel Garza and Emanuel Saenz each singled to put runners on first and second for Rio with nobody out in the bottom of the third. Eden Barrera then slammed a sharp grounder over the first base bag for a run-scoring single to boost the Rattlers to a 4-1 advantage. The Wildcat pitcher escaped the inning without further damage by striking out the next two hitters.
In the top of the fourth, Austin Atkins hit a long drive down the left field line that bounced off the fence for a two-out double. He then advanced to third on a wild pitch. The next hitter, however, flied out to left to end the inning. In the fifth, the Wildcats drew a one-out walk, but the Rattler shortstop, Marc Perez, made an excellent running catch of a line drive up the middle to prevent a hit and end the inning.
In the top of the sixth, leadoff hitter Ryan Stark hit a bouncer over the third base bag for a double and reached third when the outfielder’s throw into the infield was overthrown. Aguirre kept the Wildcats off the scoreboard, however, by inducing two pop-outs and striking out the final hitter.
Eden Barrera led off the bottom of the sixth with a sharp single to center. Barrera then stole second and third, and a passed ball with two outs allowed a run to come home and increase Rio’s margin to 5-1 in what proved to be a vital insurance run.
In the top of the seventh, the Wildcats launched a last-ditch rally when leadoff hitter Trey Acosta slapped a single to center. The next hitter slammed a line drive to left field and the outfielder attempted a diving catch, but the ball fell safely and rolled all the way to the fence for an RBI triple. The next hitter walked on four pitches as Marc Perez took the mound to relieve Aguirre during that at-bat.
The next hitter lined an RBI single to left to cut the lead to 5-3 and put the tying run on first. With two runners on base, the next hitter hit a grounder and the runner was forced out at third. The next batter then belted a line drive into the gap in left center for an apparent double or triple, but centerfielder A.B. Garza made a tremendous running catch in a game-saving play that probably prevented two runs. The next hitter then hit a grounder to the shortstop, Eddie Garza, who flipped the ball to the second baseman, Memo Chapa, for the final out to clinch the Rattlers’ 5-3 win and their 2-1 series victory.
In game three, Eden Barrera went 2 for 3 with one RBI and two stolen bases. Memo Chapa was 1 for 3 with two RBIs, Emanuel Saenz was 1 for 2 with one RBI, and Eddie Garza was 1 for 3 with a double.
In Saturday’s first game or series game two, which began at 5 p.m., the Rattlers took command with four runs in the bottom of the second. Leadoff hitter Eden Barrera was hit by a pitch, and Memo Chapa beat out a bunt for a single. Barrera then advanced to third on a passed ball, and Noe Aguirre lined a single up the middle to drive in Barrera and give Rio a 1-0 lead. Marc Perez then hammered a one-out double to right center to score Chapa and put runners on second and third.
Another run scored when Eddie Garza hit a high fly to right center, but the two outfielders collided and the ball was dropped. Emmanuel Garza then hit a sacrifice fly to deep center to score another run and increase the Rattler advantage to 4-0. Eddie Garza tried to score when Emanuel Saenz singled to left, but the Wildcat outfielder made a strong throw to home plate and Garza was tagged out to end the inning.
With one out in the bottom of the third, Memo Chapa slammed a grounder over third base into the left field corner for a double. Noe Aguirre slapped a sharp grounder up the middle for a single to put runners on first and third. The runner on first tried to steal second and appeared likely to be thrown out, but the throw from the G-P catcher got away from the infielder, allowing Chapa to score for a 5-0 Rattler lead. With runners on first and second, Marc Perez hit a bouncer that the Wildcats turned into an inning-ending double play.
In the top of the fifth, the Wildcats pounded consecutive one-out singles and wound up with runners on second and third. With two out, the G-P hitter bounced out to Emanuel Saenz at first, leaving the Wildcats still scoreless. In the bottom of the fifth, the Rattlers loaded the bases with two outs, but the Wildcat relief pitcher induced a pop fly to third to end the threat.
With two outs in the top of the sixth, Ryan Stark slammed a line drive down the left field line for a double. The next hitter hit a high fly that fell safely in left field between three Rattlers, allowing Stark to score, and the hitter raced into third when the throw home sailed over the catcher’s head. The next hitter slapped a grounder into left for a single to trim Rio’s margin to 5-2. The next hitter bounced out to the second baseman, Eddie Garza, to end the inning.
Eddie Garza led off the bottom of the sixth with a sharp line drive single to left. With one out, Baldo Perez hit a squibber on the left side that was booted by the third baseman. Eden Barrera hammered a sharp line drive to center for a two-out single to score Garza and give the Rattlers a crucial insurance run and a 6-2 cushion. The inning ended when the runner was caught in a rundown between second and third and tagged out.
With one out in the top of the seventh, the Wildcat hitter slammed a line drive single to right center. The next hitter walked on a 3-1 pitch to put runners on first and second. The next batter belted a liner down the right field line for an RBI single to cut the margin to 6-3, putting runners on first and third with one out and bringing the tying run to the plate. Ramos struck out the next hitter swinging on a 1-2 pitch, and got the next batter to fly out to Eden Barrera at right to end the game and tie the series at 1-1.
The Rattlers accumulated 12 hits in winning game two, with Baldo Perez going 3 for 4 and Marc Perez was 2 for 4 with a double and one RBI. Memo Chapa was 2 for 2 with a double and a stolen base, Noe Aguirre went 2 for 3 with one RBI and two stolen bases, and Eden Barrera was 1 for 2 with one RBI.
The decisive game three began 30 minutes after the conclusion of game two, and the Rattlers took an early lead and maintained it to win the game and the series.
In game one Friday night in Portland, the Wildcats scratched out a 2-0 victory as they broke a scoreless tie with two runs in the bottom of the sixth. Wildcat starter Isaac Ponce pitched a complete game five-hit shutout and recorded nine strikeouts. Baldo Perez pitched a complete game five-hitter over six innings and registered four strikeouts.
Eddie Garza went 2 for 3, including a first inning double, to pace the Rattlers at the plate in game one. Emmanuel Garza, Baldo Perez and Memo Chapa each contributed one hit. A.B. Garza made an excellent catch on the warning track in the fifth with two G-P runners on base to keep the Wildcats off the scoreboard. He also threw out a Wildcat runner at third base. Catcher Emmanuel Garza threw out a G-P runner trying to steal third.
The Rattlers will attempt to continue their winning ways in the third round playoff series against Sharyland Pioneer, with game one Thursday night in Sharyland and game two Friday night in Rio Grande City.
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