Ten players on the 2019 Rio Grande City Rattlers varsity baseball team have been awarded some level of All-District honors for their performances during the recently completed season, with one player receiving awards at three positions.
The 2019 season was one of the greatest in the history of the Rio Grande City High School baseball program as the Rattlers advanced to the third round of the state playoffs. They defeated Valley View 2-0 in the opening round of the playoffs, outscoring the Tigers by a 19-0 margin. In the second round, they overcame the Gregory-Portland Wildcats 2-1 with victories in the second and third games of that series in Rio Grande City. Prior to game two of that series, the Wildcats had achieved a 30-2 overall record and were ranked No. 7 among Texas 5A schools.
The Rattlers, who achieved a 10-4 record in district play, defeated Sharyland Pioneer in the opening game of the third round series before ultimately coming up short 2-1 as the Diamondbacks won the next two games.
District 31-5A baseball had a historically successful year as all four playoff teams – Rio Grande City, Sharyland High, Sharyland Pioneer, and La Joya Palmview – reached the third round of the playoffs and were among the final 32 teams in the state playoffs. Sharyland Pioneer and Sharyland played each other in the fifth round, or the final eight, and the Pioneer Diamondbacks won that series 2-0 to reach the state tournament.
The exceptional 2019 season came after the Rattlers reached the second round of the playoffs in both 2017 and 2018. In 2017, they achieved a stellar 12-4 record in district play.
Rattler Head Coach Roque Cortinas commented, “I’m definitely pleased with how the season unfolded. It was definitely a great year, one of the greatest in the history of the program…We wound up being one game away from being regional quarterfinal champions, the farthest Rio Grande City has ever been in the modern day era.”
Sophomore shortstop Marc Perez was honored as the Defensive Most Valuable Player for District 31-5A. Sophomore outfielder Eden Barrera was named the District Newcomer of the Year.
In the District 31-5A opener against Mission Veterans in March, Marc Perez drove in six runs with a homer, two triples and a double. He slammed a solo homer against the PSJA Memorial Mustangs in another March district contest. Throughout the season, he tormented Rattler opponents on the base paths, especially on April 23 when he stole three bases against Sharyland Pioneer.
On the mound, Perez picked up a win with two-plus innings of scoreless relief pitching against Sharyland Pioneer in the third round playoff opener. He registered a save by quashing a seventh inning rally by Gregory-Portland in game three of the second round series.
Sophomore Eden Barrera wielded a potent bat throughout the season. He slammed RBI singles in games two and three of the Gregory-Portland series and stole two bases in game three to help lead the Rattlers to victory. Barrera hammered a game-winning bases loaded single to give the Rattlers a 3-2 eight-inning victory over the Roma Gladiators on March 29. He slammed a homer in a non-district game early in the season.
Winning first team All-District honors were senior designated hitter Osbaldo “Baldo” Perez, senior outfielder Noe Aguirre and sophomore pitcher Mike Ramos. Perez also achieved second team honors at third base and as a pitcher.
Osbaldo “Baldo” Perez was a mainstay on the mound for the Rattlers throughout his four years on the varsity. He pitched a two-hit seven inning shutout against Valley View in the first round playoff opener, and tossed a complete game four-hitter and struck out 12 against the Roma Gladiators in late March. Throughout the season and his career, Perez was a reliable and potent hitter for the Rattlers. He went 3 for 4 at the plate in the game two victory over Gregory-Portland and drove in three runs in game one against Valley View.
Senior outfielder Noe Aguirre slammed a two-run triple against PSJA Memorial in March and belted a two-run double in game two of the first round playoff series against Valley View. He hammered a run-scoring single in game two of the Gregory-Portland series to give the Rattlers a lead they would not relinquish.
On the mound, Aguirre provided stellar pitching as he struck out five batters in two innings against the Sharyland Pioneer Diamondbacks on April 23 to pick up a save in that crucial district game, fanning the final two batters to escape a bases-loaded seventh inning jam. He provided six strong innings in the decisive game three of the Gregory-Portland series as he registered eight strikeouts and allowed only one hit and three runs prior to the seventh inning.
Sophomore Mike Ramos pitched consecutive no-hitters against Mission Veterans and PSJA Memorial early in district play. He pitched a five-inning two-hit shutout in game two of the Valley View playoff series, and registered a complete game victory with seven strikeouts in game two of the Gregory-Portland series. He pitched eight innings for a complete game win over the Roma Gladiators on March 29, racking up seven strikeouts and allowing seven hits.
Receiving second team All-District recognition were utility player Eduardo “Eddie” Garza, catcher Emmanuel Garza, first baseman Emmanuel Saenz, and third baseman and pitcher Osbaldo “Baldo” Perez.
Sophomore infielder Eduardo “Eddie” Garza, honored as a utility player, provided consistent hitting and power for the Rattlers throughout the season. He slammed a ninth-inning game-winning double against Sharyland Pioneer in game one of the third round playoff series. He went 4 for 4 with a homer, triple and two singles against La Joya Palmview on April 16, and went 3 for 3 and hammered a three-run double against Valley View in game two of the opening round playoff series.
Sophomore catcher Emmanuel Garza was a potent hitter for the Rattlers, especially late in the season. He blasted three-run homers with two outs in the seventh inning in games two and three of the Sharyland Pioneer playoff series. He belted three doubles against the PSJA Memorial Wolverines on March 19.
Behind the plate, Emmanuel Garza’s arm consistently stopped opposing base runners. He picked off a runner at first in game two against Sharyland Pioneer, threw out a runner trying to steal third in game two against Valley View, and threw out a Pioneer runner attempting to steal second to eliminate a late inning Diamondback threat in the Rattlers’ crucial April 23 win.
Sophomore first baseman Emmanuel Saenz was a dangerous hitter who slammed three homers during the season. His two-run homer against Sharyland Pioneer on April 23 ultimately provided the margin of victory for the Rattlers in that critical game.
Senior designated hitter Jose Chapa and junior outfielder A.B. Garza achieved Honorable Mention All-District recognition. Jose Chapa slammed a crucial two-run single to enable the Rattlers to take control in the decisive game three of the Gregory-Portland series. A.B. Garza provided outstanding defensive play throughout the season, making an exceptional running catch in the seventh inning of game three against Gregory-Portland that prevented a game-tying triple or double. Garza also hammered a two-run triple in the May 3 victory over Valley View.
In reflecting on the 2019 season, Coach Cortinas commented, “I always knew we had the amount of talent we showed this year. It was just a matter of how quickly some (players) could adjust to this level of baseball, and they did adjust! As we know now, we were playing against top caliber teams all year long in our district, night in and night out. This, I felt, was a big part of the success the district had as a whole. It has to be an overall and complete team effort from the coaches to the players to have such a successful season.”
The coach emphasized that among District 31-5A teams, the Rattlers ranked second in both hitting and fielding and finished fourth in pitching with a team earned run average (ERA) of 2.77. He pointed out that the pitching statistics mean “we allowed less than three earned runs per game, which is an exceptional all-around team effort.”
Cortinas predicted that the Rattler program will show continued strength in the next few years, with the 2020 season featuring seven returning starters and a talented crop of players coming up from the junior varsity. He stressed that interest in baseball among the community’s youth has increased greatly in the past few years and should continue to do so.
Concerning the outlook for the 2020 season, the coach stressed, “Expectations will be high as they were this year, but we are up for the challenge…Rio Grande City baseball has a lot to be excited about in the future…Our district looks to be just as tough next year, but we are up for the challenge again! We will return seven starters for next year, the 2020 season.”
Cortinas concluded, “We were so glad to have brought some excitement to not just our school, but our community as well.”
The Rattlers finished the 2019 season with an overall record of 24-12-1 and a District 31-5A mark of 10-4. They racked up six straight wins to start district play in March. Cortinas indicated it is his understanding that the Rattlers have reached the third round three times in the modern era, but 2019 was the first time the Rattlers won a game in a third round series.