After going 3-3 through the first round of District 31-5A play, the Lady Patriots softball team looked like they were going nowhere fast.
Veterans Memorial head coach Vivian Ray knew that she had the talent to make a return trip to the playoffs and possibly even exceed last year’s bi-district championship success, but her team was just not clicking.
With teams like the then 6-0 Edinburg Vela Lady Sabercats and the 5-1 Pioneer Lady Diamondbacks atop the district standings, Ray knew that it was do-or-die time for the Lady Patriots even though the season was just halfway through.
“Coming into the second round, the girls understood that they couldn’t lose,” Ray said immediately after the Lady Patriots 8-1 win over the Lady Diamondbacks Monday night. “We simply couldn’t take another loss and still have a shot at the playoffs.”
Since their rather lethargic first round performance the Lady Patriots have gone 6-0 to end the regular season at 9-3 and clinch the district’s second playoff seed. Among their victims during this hot streak were the Lady Sabercats who, coming into their game against Veterans Memorial, had not lost a game all year long.
“When we played Vela in the first round it was a fantastic game,” explained Ray. “It came down to the last inning, but the ball fell in Vela’s favor. But that’s the name of the game. Somebody has to be a winner and somebody has to be a loser. But when it came to our second round game against them we knew what we needed to do because we couldn’t afford a loss.”
Veterans Memorial defeated Vela 5-3 in that second round game that was originally scheduled to be their district finale. However, a rain-out of their April 14 game against the Lady Diamondbacks resulted in a make-up game Monday night.
In that game, played on the Lady Diamondbacks’ home field, Veterans Memorial scored two runs in the top of the third and six in the sixth to defeat Pioneer, 8-1. With that victory the 9-3 Lady Patriots clinched second place in district while the 8-4 Lady Diamondbacks fell to third.
The final two runs of the Lady Patriots’ six-run sixth inning Monday night came as a result of a two-out homerun over the left field fence by junior shortstop Isela Rodriguez.
“This was my third homerun of the season, but it was my first in district play,” shared Rodriguez. “I felt that it was a big hit when it came off my bat but it wasn’t until after I turned at first base and I saw it going over the fence that I realized it was a homerun. We had two outs at the time and I knew that the team was depending on me to do well so it was a big hit.”
On the mound for the Lady Patriots against Pioneer was senior Alysson Moreno, who has pitched every game for Veterans Memorial since her freshman year and could possibly have to pitch three games this weekend in their best-of-three bi-district playoff series against the PSJA Lady Bears.
When asked about the wins over Vela and Pioneer, Moreno said, “We knew we had to win our last three games because we were in fourth place and time was running out. They were must-win games in order for us to move up and now here we are in second place. Now we’re hoping to accomplish more this year than we did last and make school history once again.”