It took extra innings, but the Sharyland Rattlers swept the Harlingen South Hawks two games to none in the area round of the class 5A state playoffs last weekend. The Rattlers managed to overcome fielding errors in game one and base running errors in game two to advance to the regional quarterfinal round against Eagle Pass this weekend.
In Friday’s game one, the Rattlers took a 1-0 lead over the Hawks in the second inning when sophomore first baseman Joey Esquivel hit a Bobby Arias pitch out of the park over the left field fence.
In the bottom of the second inning however, the Hawks took a 4-1 lead when the Rattlers played uncharacteristically sloppy defense. With a runner on first base and two outs, first baseman Esquivel booted a ground ball that extended the inning for the Hawks. Sharyland pitcher Eric Gutierrez became his own worst enemy when he walked back-to-back hitters to bring in the Hawks’ first run and then made an errant throw to first base that resulted in a collision between Esquivel and the base runner.That allowed runs two and three to cross the plate. Finally, a Hawks base runner, caught in a run-down between third base and home, eluded a tag by catcher Luis Trevino and scored the Hawks’ fourth run.
The Rattlers regained the lead with a single run in the fourth inning and trio of runs in the fifth. Harlingen South then tied the game at five in the sixth inning. Neither team scored in the seventh or eighth innings.
In the top of the ninth inning the Rattlers scored the eventual winning run taking a 1-0 lead in the series when Alex Venegas drove Gutierrez in from third base with a hard hit ground ball that was bobbled by the Hawks’ shortstop.
The Rattlers’ Gutierrez not only scored the winning run, but he pitched all nine innings for Sharyland.
When asked about leaving Gutierrez in for the whole game, Sharyland Head Coach Bart Bickerton said, “We didn’t plan on him pitching that much, but he is a senior and that’s what you do during the playoffs.”
In the bottom of the first, Sharyland catcher Luis Trevino drove in Jorge Maldonado and Eric Gutierrez with a two-out double to centerfield. However, the Hawks struck back quickly when they scored three runs in the top of the second inning on a base-clearing double that left fielder Marcus Villarreal failed to snag on the fly.
In the bottom of the second inning, Sharyland tied the score at 3-3 when Alex Venegas scored from third base on an error by the Hawks’ shortstop. The inning and Sharyland’s threat to regain the lead came to an end, however, when the Hawks turned a fly out to left field into a double play by picking Rattler Marcus Villarreal off at second base.
In the bottom of the third, Phyllip Lopez, who was pinch running for Sharyland pitcher Tres Barrera, scored the Rattlers’ fourth run when he was brought home by Trevino’s single, making the score Sharyland 4, Harlingen South 3.
The score remained tied at four through the sixth and seventh innings, but in the bottom of the eighth the Rattlers loaded the bases with no outs. Pinch hitter Walter Main led off the Rattlers’ half of the inning with a walk. Mario Vela then reached base safely on a bunt. After an intentional walk to load the bases with no outs, freshman Jorge Maldonado hit a long fly ball that was plenty deep enough to drive Main in from third base to win the game. Final score: Sharyland 5, Harlingen South 4.
With the players still celebrating their late inning heroics and advancing to the regional quarterfinals, Coach Bickerton commented on his teams’ play against.
“Last night we didn’t play defense very well. Today, we made a lot of base running mistakes that kept them in the game. I think they had four unearned runs again today,” he said. “Tres did a good job of keeping them where they were at and giving us a chance to win in the bottom of the eighth. And then a freshman comes up and hits a deep fly ball to win the thing. It was great!”
This weekend, Sharyland (29-3) takes on Eagle Pass (25-8) in a best-of-three series at Laredo United SAC Complex.
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.