For Coach Manuel “Ricky” Garcia and his Palmview High Lobos baseball team, this season has already been one to remember. Having earned a share of the 30-5A district championship, the first in school history, and having won a bi-district playoff series, another school first, the 2014 Lobos have already left their mark in the annals of Palmview High School sports history.
But they’re not yet ready to put the school’s record book away. Instead, they have their sights set on yet another first at Palmview High – an area round baseball championship.
“This is our first time to advance to the area round of the playoffs,” explained Garcia. “It is a tribute to the kids and their ability to play as a team. That is one of the main things that we’ve been talking to them about all season – playing as one. That’s what has made us tough to beat.”
If the Lobos are going to add another page to the school history book by winning an area round championship, it will be against the Pharr San-Juan Alamo (PSJA) Bears.
“They’re a great ball club,” said Garcia. “They’re well coached by Coach Guajardo and his staff. Their hitters make them a dangerous team when they get on a roll. Therefore, we’ve got to make sure that we come with our best if we are going to be able to compete with them and hopefully beat them.”
Garcia knows that for the Lobos to continue their winning ways against the Bears, his hitters will have to do what they’ve been doing all season long – put the ball in play in clutch situations.
“We’ve got several hitters that have come through for us in big games,” shared Garcia. “Edgar Salinas, for one, came through in a big way against Sharyland in the second round. Eleazar Garcia, Carlos Puente and Eddie Hinojosa have also come through for us at different times when we needed a big hit to win a game. So we have a lot of great kids that can play ball and put the ball in play.”
On the mound, Garcia will be relying on his No. 1 starter, Chris Rocha, to do what he has done all season long – give him a quality start in a high pressure situation. In game No. 1 of last week’s bi-district best-of-three series against Del Rio, Rocha struck out 12 Rams hitters while giving up only two hits en-route to a 4-0 win.
“I came out strong for that game,” said Rocha. “I had a two-week rest for that game due to a hamstring injury, so my arm was well rested. But it’s not all about me. A pitcher is not a pitcher without the defense, without his catcher and without the sticks. I just did my part on the mound and I let everybody else do their parts and that’s how we came out with the win.”
In game No. 2 against Del Rio, Palmview jumped out to an early 6-1 lead, but the Rams fought back to take a 7-6 lead in the sixth inning. Needing to bring an end to Del Rio’s rally, Garcia brought in his freshman relief pitcher Leo Perez.
“Coach Garcia put me into the game in the sixth inning with two outs and the bases loaded,” shared Perez. “He was just hoping that I could shut them down to keep us in the game and give us a chance to come from behind. I got the hitter to line out to the shortstop to end the inning.”
After scoring a run in the seventh to tie the game and force extra innings, the Lobos scored five in the eighth to take game No. 2 by a score of 13-8 and sweep Del Rio two games to none.
Game No. 1 of the Lobos’ area round playoff series against the Bears was played at PSJA Baseball Stadium last night at 7 (after press deadline). Game No. 2 is scheduled to be played tonight at 7 p.m. at La Joya I.S.D. baseball complex. Game No. 3, if necessary, will be played at PSJA tomorrow (Saturday) at 5 p.m.