Rattlers, others ready for playoffs
The 2019 baseball playoffs are here and the Big 7 schools will be well represented. Three 31-5A schools (Sharyland, Sharyland Pioneer, La Joya Palmview) and one 30-6A school (La Joya) all enter the postseason at the right time with each playing winning baseball when it has counted the most.
In District 31-5A, there is no one hotter than the Sharyland Rattlers. The Rattlers survived a three team battle with Sharyland Pioneer and Rio Grande City to win the district title and enter the postseason riding a nine game winning streak, outscoring their opponents 77-13 during the run. Overall, the team finished the regular season with a 27-4 record; going 12 -2 in district. The Rattlers got it rolling after a 3-2 record to start the district season.
“Sweeping Rio Grande City really got it turned around for us,” said Sharyland coach Bart Bickerton. “This year’s team ranks as one of the best I’ve had because it is a team. There are no superstars here.”
It is a group that seems to have every facet of the game covered. Bickerton went on to credit a solid pitching staff with a defense behind them and a patient approach in hitting that emphasizes getting on base as the reasons for their success. The Rattlers were scheduled to open the playoffs last night in a one game winner-take-all rematch with District 32-5A opponent Edcouch-Elsa.
Sharyland defeated the Yellow Jackets in a best- of- three series in the bi-district round last year 2-1.
Even with the storied success of the program members of the Sharyland team are staying focused. “It (winning district) feels very good,” says junior pitcher Andy Lozano, “But we never take anything for granted and we are ready.”
Senior third baseman Juan Lopez echoed those sentiments.
“We knew we could do some damage (this season) if we just stayed together. We have (playoff) experience from last year and we are ready and confident.”
Another Big 7 school is starting to make some history of its own. The Sharyland Pioneer Diamondbacks have been competing for five seasons and enter the postseason for the second straight year under second year coach Casey Smith. Last season saw the team qualify for the playoffs for the first time in school history; advancing to the second round. So far this year the Diamondbacks have set a school record for victories with an overall record of 28-5, finishing as district runner-up to Sharyland with an 11-3 mark. They won eight of their last nine games to keep the pressure on the Rattlers through the final game of the regular season.
“These kids have a great work ethic and great attitudes,” said Smith, “And they are now seeing the fruits of that.” Smith feels the program has moved forward this year with all the team has accomplished. The next step is a one game winner-take-all match-up with Brownsville Lopez at Pioneer High School tonight at 7 pm for a bi-district title.
The La Joya Palmview Lobos qualified for the playoffs as the District 31-5A fourth place team. This marks the Lobos eighth postseason appearance in the school’s eleven year existence. The school was re-classified to the district from 30-6A at the start of the year and a tough year in 2018 on the field led many to believe they would struggle in the new setting. The Lobos completed the regular season with an overall record of 21-11, going 9-5 in district. Ricky Garcia has been the coach of the Lobos for all eleven seasons and knew what he had in his team.
“Because of our record last season we were predicted to come out on bottom (this season),” said Garcia. “We knew (we could have success) if we played together and became one.”
The Lobos have won six of their last seven district games. Garcia added that the quality of teams in the new district has prepared them for the post season. They are scheduled to host District 32-5A champion Brownsville Veterans tonight at 7pm at Palmview High School in a one game winner-take-all bi-district clash.
The race for the final 30-6A playoff spot came down to the regular season finale between La Joya and Mission last week. The Coyotes 6-1 victory secured a third straight playoff spot for third year coach Mario Flores.
Overall La Joya finished the regular season 17-11, securing fourth place in district with a 9-5 mark. District re-alignment added PSJA and PSJA North to 30-6A this year making it one of the tougher ones in the area. The Coyotes overcame a 4-4 start by winning five of their last six district games.
“The mentality (of the kids) was key for us,” said Lopez. “The young guys have followed our senior leadership and played hard for them.”
Next up for the Coyotes is a best-of-three series against District 29-6A champion Laredo United South. Game one is tonight in La Joya at 7pm. Game two will be at 2 pm Saturday in Laredo at the Student Activity Complex. If necessary, game three will take place 30 minutes after the conclusion of the second game.