Of the four Big 7 schools’ baseball teams in District 30-6A, the Palmview Lobos and La Joya Coyotes were the only two that qualified for the state playoffs. The 11-1 Lobos as district champions and the 8-4 Coyotes as district runner-ups.
Both teams played bi-district round games last Friday night and both teams lost. However, unlike the Coyotes, who were eliminated in their one game winner-take-all playoff against Eagle Pass, the Lobos were still alive in their best-of-three series against the Laredo United South Panthers.
As Palmview head coach Manuel “Ricky” Garcia pointed out prior to a recent Lobos’ practice, the 6-9 Panthers were a much better team than their record indicated.
“We knew that we were going to be in a fight against United South,” Garcia said. “You have to understand that they had to play (Laredo) Alexander three times and Laredo United three times. I took a close look at the scores in those games and I found that every time they played them they got better. So I knew that they were a good ball club despite their losing record.”
Garcia added, “I knew that we had seen their best the night before. So I told the kids, ‘If that’s their best, imagine them without their best.’ So I told them that they just had to be confident enough to not put themselves down even if they were to fall behind.”
Last year, the Lobos made it into the third round of the playoffs where they lost a 1-0 nail-biter to Alexander. Having come so close to a Regional Quarterfinal title last year has motivated Lobos players, such as junior shortstop Esteben Pena and senior right fielder Jose Chapa, to surpass last year’s success this year.
“Losing the first game against United South gave us the fire we needed to win the second and third games,” explained Pena. “We didn’t want to be knocked out of the playoffs in the first round. Our goal is to get past the third round and improve on what we did last year.”
“We went into Laredo with a plan and with a positive mindset,” added Chapa. “We knew that we had to win both games so that’s what we focused on. We came together as a team in the second game and even when we were down we picked each other up because we didn’t want that to be our last game.”
Next up for Palmview is another Panthers team – the Weslaco Panthers. Weslaco defeated Brownsville Hanna two games to none in the bi-district round to earn the right to play the Lobos.
“We’re expecting a pretty good series,” said Palmview junior first baseman Mario Hinojosa. “It’s very important for us to win the first game at home because we don’t want to put ourselves in the same situation we were in against United South of having to win two games on the road to advance.”
Lobos senior pitcher and first baseman Ernesto Garza put what Palmview has to do against Weslaco into the most basic of terms when he said, “We just need to play them like any other team. We just have to win two out of the three games to keep on going and advance in the playoffs.”