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Rattlers and Coyotes play on

And then there were two. Of the five Big 7 baseball teams that qualified for the UIL state playoffs, the Coyotes, the Diamondbacks, the Lobos, the Patriots and the Rattlers, only the Coyotes and the Rattlers won their bi-district round matchups and earned the right to play on. Will they continue their winning ways? Only time will tell, but here is a look at this past weekend’s results and a preview of this weekend’s match-ups.

The Pioneer Diamondbacks lost game No. 1 of their best of three series against Brownsville Porter by a score of 5-3, bounced back in a big way to win game No. 2 by a score of 12-2 but then saw their season come to an end when the Cowboys pulled off a come-from-behind victory, with a four run seventh inning, in game No. 3 by a score of 7-5. The Palmview Lobos were swept in two games when they lost game No. 1 in in their best-of-three series against Corpus Christi Ray by a score of 6-0 and lost game No. 2 in five innings by a score of 16-6. The Mission Veterans Patriots also got swept in their best of three series when they fell to Gregory Portland by scores of 9-0 and 11-3 in games No. 1 and No. 2 respectively.

The La Joya Coyotes, who won their first outright district championship since the 2008 by going 16-0 this season, earned the right to advance into the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2010 by defeating the Weslaco Panthers in two games by scores of 3-0 and 18-12. Coach Mario Flores’ Coyotes will be taking on the 22-8 San Antonio Stevens Falcons in a best of three Area round series that is scheduled to start tonight at 7 with game No. 1. Game no. 2 is scheduled to be played tomorrow at 1 p.m. and game No. 3 (if needed) is scheduled to be played 30 minutes after the completion of game No. 2. All the games in this series will be played at Laredo Veterans Field in Laredo, Texas.

When asked what he wants people to know about his team and his players, Flores said, “They’re a very special group, a VERY special group,” Flores said. “They’re hungry and they have that drive to want to rewrite Coyote baseball history. So stay tuned, I guess.”

The Sharyland Rattlers, who defeated Weslaco East in two games in their best of three bi-district round series by scores of 6-0 and 6-2, were scheduled to open their best of three Area round series against Gregory Portland last night at home. Game no. 2 is scheduled to be played tonight at 7 in Gregory Portland and game No. 3 (if needed) is scheduled to be played tomorrow in Falfurrias at 1 p.m., or possibly later due to another scheduled game.

The Rattlers finished in third place in District 31-5A with an 11-3 record (27-4 overall). Having won 10 of their last 11 games, the Rattlers seem to be peaking at the right time and one of the reasons for that is the play of their sophomore third baseman, Cole Gerlach who credits the fight in his team for their success.

“We have fight in us,” Gerlach said. “As you said, we lost to Pioneer in game one but we came back and it was the fight in us that brought us back to beat them in game two.”

As a member of the Gerlach family, Cole comes from a long line of athletes that have played various sports for Mission and Sharyland schools; among them, his brother Chase Gerlach who played shortstop, outfield and pitched for the Rattlers from 2017-2020, and who is currently playing baseball at the collegiate level.

“My brother is playing baseball in New Mexico at a junior college,” Gerlach said. “We’re both trying to make it to the pros, so I take real pride in being a Gerlach.”

Despite being a senior, Rattlers’ shortstop Jose Acosta is only in his second season on the Rattlers varsity squad. And with last season being cut short early-on in district play due to the pandemic, the 2021 season is going to be his only full season as a Rattler.

When asked what goals he and his teammates have set for the 2021 Rattlers, Acosta said, “We want to go as far as we can. We want to give the school another championship. We want to bring all the school together; especially after all these tough times because of COVID. And we want to play for last year’s seniors. Their season was cut short so we want to play this season for them.”

With the state’s No. 2 ranked team, Gregory Portland, next on their schedule, the Rattlers are going to have their hands full if they hope to advance into the quarterfinal, or third, round of the state playoffs. However, Acosta believes he has the winning formula for the Rattlers.

“We’re all going to have to be on our A game,” Acosta said. “It’s going to take us all talking to each other and having that good chemistry as always. Also, it’ll take everyone doing their part on the field and when batting.”

Junior center fielder Saul Soto is in his third season on the Rattlers’ varsity squad. That means that he was on the team as a freshman two years ago when the Rattlers and the Diamondbacks went head-to-head against each other in the Regional Final round of the UIL state playoffs. While he did have an opportunity to play as a freshman, his time on the field was limited.

“I was a starter (as a freshman) because one of my friends out there got injured so they called me and I played from when he was first injured until he recovered,” Soto said. “So I played until he came back, from the beginning to the end.”

When asked whether the fact that Gregory Portland is ranked number two in the state worries him, Soto said, “First of all, the ranking is just a number. Nothing can guarantee if a team plays good only because of their record. It’s going to take a lot of hard effort because they are a good team. But I think that if we can put a baseball game together, we can beat them by a lot.”

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