Patriots, Rattlers, Lobos and Coyotes in playoffs
While April showers may bring May flowers when it comes to high school baseball April games bring May playoffs. And the playoffs are what four of the seven Big 7 baseball teams have qualified for and will be participating in this weekend.
Not only did the Veterans Memorial Patriots, the Sharyland Rattlers, the Palmview Lobos and the La Joya Coyotes all qualify for the state playoffs but they all finished in no worse than second place in their respective districts. The Patriots and the Rattlers ended their regular seasons as District 31-5A co-champions while the Lobos claimed District 30-6A’s championship and the Coyotes were runners-up.
While the Patriots (10 – 2) and the Rattlers (10 – 2) did finish the regular season tied atop the District 31-5A standings Veterans Memorial won a one-game playoff to earn the top seed in the playoffs. As a result they will be playing the fourth place Mercedes Tigers (7 – 7) this weekend while the Rattlers will be playing the third place Edcouch Elsa Yellow Jackets (9 – 5).
As for the Lobos (11 – 1) and the Coyotes (8 – 4) they will be playing Laredo United South (6 – 9) and Eagle Pass (7 – 8) respectively.
Having missed out on the playoffs last year the Coyotes are looking forward to making the most they can out of this post-season opportunity. Unlike the other three Big 7 teams however, La Joya will only need to win one game to advance.
“The one game winner-take-all format is something I wanted to do,” explained La Joya head coach Reuben Farias. “I felt that a one game playoff would give us the best chance of moving on.”
“Eagle Pass is a well-coached team with a couple of very good ballplayers,” added Farias. “They put the ball in play, they’re sound defensively and their pitchers throw strikes. They’re certainly not a team that’s going to beat themselves.”
La Joya senior third baseman Damian Leal shared what making the playoffs again this year after missing out last year means to him.
“It’s a special feeling,” Leal said. “After coming so close last year but falling short and being able to come back this year and get back into the playoffs has us all excited. Our goal is to make it as far into the playoffs as possible but first we have to get past Eagle Pass.”
One of the Coyotes’ starting pitchers is junior Anibal Leal. His injury in the final weeks of last season may have contributed to La Joya missing out on the playoffs. This season however he has remained injury-free and he is ready to start against Eagle Pass should he get the call.
As for what it means to him to still be playing at this point in the season Leal said, “It’s pretty special because last year we came up short but we but we managed to get their this year. We started out slow but we started getting the rhythm of winning and we kept it going.”
Like the Coyotes, who won eight of their last nine games, the Patriots won their final six games to clinch a share of the district title and earn the top seed in the playoffs.
Veterans Memorial sophomore left fielder Roman De Leon, who as a freshman was part of the Patriots’ team that lost a close bi-district playoff series for the second year in a row, explained why he believes the Patriots are better prepared to make a run deep into the playoffs this year.
“We have a lot of sophomores on this team that were on the varsity last year as freshmen,” explained De Leon. “With that additional year of experience we feel that we are better prepared. And then there are the seniors on this team. This is their last chance to win a playoff series so that is additional motivation for us to win.”