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Patriots avenge first round loss

20140415 Baseball VMHS vs MHS lg-33It’s been said that revenge is a dish best served cold. On an unseasonably cool evening at Mission High’s Leo Najo Field Tuesday the Veterans Memorial Patriots baseball team served up a plate-full of ice-cold revenge on the Eagles for their first round loss – a 7-6 extra inning heartbreaker in which the Patriots blew a seventh inning lead and lost it in the eighth.

Tuesday’s game was originally scheduled to be played on the Patriots’ home field but it was moved to Mission High after their first round game was moved from MHS to VMHS due to a problem with the lights. Even so the Patriots scored three runs in the first, one in the second and six in the third to defeat the Eagles by a score of 13-5.

With two outs in the top of the third and VMHS holding on to a one run lead, Coach Casey Smith’s Patriots broke the game wide open with a three run homerun over the right-centerfield fence by designated hitter Corbin Garza and a three run inside-the-park homerun by third baseman Edward Pena. Garza’s homerun was his first of the season.

“They threw an inside pitch on me and I turned on it,” explained Garza. “This was a big win for us – especially after they beat us earlier in the season. Hopefully we will get hot and keep winning as we get into the playoffs.”

Freshman Noel Vela pitched the entire game for the Patriots. The left hander struggled early when he gave up three runs in the bottom of the first but once he found his rhythm he settled down and held the Eagles to only two runs the rest of the way.

“I had some control problems in the first inning which hurt me,” said Vela. “I need to stay ahead of the hitters on the count to keep that from happening. I’m glad I had the bats behind me tonight. That always helps.”

Vela, who credits his fastball for his success, improved his season record to 5-1.

With the win against the Eagles, the Patriots improved their district record to 12-2 and have only two games remaining on their district schedule. Other than their first round loss to the Eagles, Coach Smith’s squad only other defeat came at the hands of the Edcouch-Elsa Yellow Jackets.

One thing that Smith has been working on is his team’s tendency to struggle in the early innings. While plating three in their first at-bat Tuesday was a step in the right direction, his pitcher’s control problems in the bottom of the first negated that lead and gave Mission new life – at least temporarily.

“I thought we came out well tonight when we scored three in the top of the first,” shared Smith. “It was nice to jump out with a lead like that. Noel just had to settle down. Once he settled down he was ok.”

As for Garza’s homerun that helped break the game open in the third, Smith knew his DH had it in him but he’d been waiting for him to prove it at the plate.

“Corbin struggled early in the year but he’s really starting to hit the ball well of late so I’m glad that we’ve stuck with him,” said Smith. “His confidence is starting to get high. He’s hit the ball really well in practice so it was nice to see him really get a hold of one.”

As the current District 32-4A leaders, the Patriots will be looking to win-out and clinch their second district championship in as many years. With last year’s title being the first in school history, Smith now has his sights set on bringing another first to VMHS – back-to-back baseball championships.

“We have two games left,” explained Smith. “We play Rio Grande City Tuesday and PSJA Southwest next Friday. With one more win we clinch at least a co-championship but obviously we want to win both games and win the title outright.”

As for Coach Rick Lozano’s Eagles, they are currently in a tight race with Rio Grande City and Edcouch Elsa for the fourth and final playoff spot in the district. While their loss Tuesday night did not help their playoff chances it did not hurt them as much as it could’ve.

“We’re fortunate because Roma beat Rio Grande and Mercedes beat Edcouch so we’re still in the same situation we were in going into tonight’s game,” explained Lozano. “We have a big game against Rio on Thursday but if we win-out we should be in the playoffs.”

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