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TELL IT LIKE IT IS: TRESSLER’S NORTH BAND READY FOR POSTSEASON CLASH WITH LOS FRESNOS

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April 28, 2021

By Greg Selber

He’s always been a no-nonsense type, someone who will drive the Straight Talk Express day after day, never gilding the lily, hedging a bet, or lobbing criticism or praise when he feels it is unwarranted. That’s why when Richard Tressler says that his Lady Cougars have a good chance at beating Los Fresnos in the softball playoffs, one should take him at his word. A word that has been as good as gold for the past 24 seasons at North.

“This was a very tough district this season,” said the venerable manager recently, as he and North waited for the seemingly interminable Lower Valley league race to conclude. “We didn’t play as well the second half of it as we did the first, that’s a fact. But we have won some big ball games and I always felt, all along, we had one of the better teams in the district.”

North, having earned the third seed from District 31-6A, will face off with the Lady Falcons, second in 32, in a one-game winner-take-all showdown, Friday on the road. And Tressler is up front and honest about the way it has to go for his girls to be successful.

“We have had problems with consistency this season, and we’ve left way too many runners on base,” he said of a crew that went 10-6 in a 31-6A race that was full of solid contenders. “Sometimes we get the hits but our defense or pitching is a bit behind, sometimes the other way around; we haven’t often been able to be consistent in all three areas … but when and if we do, we can compete with any team in the Valley, that, I know.”

The Lady Coogs squared off with Rio Grande City last week and clobbered a very good Lady Rattler unit, 11-3. They worked against Brownsville Vets, another playoff outfit looking for warmup innings, Tuesday.

“We scored in every inning but one,” Tressler said of the Rio victory. “We hit three home runs. We made an error and that led to their runs. We can beat Los Fresnos, if we play well, if we can be consistent and not give away outs and runs. We have showed our mettle, resilience with some comebacks after making mistakes, but you cannot live like that, not in the playoffs. You just have to be consistent, give yourself a chance to win.”

This marks the 21st playoff appearance in a row for North, which is unprecedented in Valley history. But Tressler is quick to note that last season, because it was a wash after the pandemic hit, wiping the season away, is a factor in that statistic.

“You just can’t say whether we would have made it, though I feel we had the team to do it,” he explained. “But speculating, well, you can’t do it. One thing about it is, people may not understand how difficult it is to make the playoffs every season, time after time. You’ve seen some programs in the Valley, they’ll have some great years and then disappear for awhile. But we have been able to get in, and do some damage, year after year. I’m proud of that, proud of the girls we have had.”

The long-time mentor says that consistency, the occasional bugaboo of the 2021 bunch, is also the key to success over the long haul.

“We keep the philosophy the same every year, in approach, teaching and learning all of it,” he noted. “When the girls buy in, they usually come out successfully. Some years you have more talent, other years less, but if you work the same way, demand the same things, it will work.”

That includes expectations. At North, the program has set the high bar for many moons, winning titles and advancing deep into the playoffs. And Tressler knows what the secret has been.

“The key to me has always been finding ways to get kids to play above their talent level,” he remarked. “If they believe they can achieve something bigger, be part of a whole that may be more successful than the parts by themselves, if the girls have the attitude that they can do it, then sometimes it happens. Now, it’s not always just talent; I mean, you have to have good players. But sometimes a group has the belief, the will to achieve, and it just comes together like that.”

Still, the coach knows that expectations can also be a burden. In North’s case, the playoff string is alive and well, but the team has not advanced past bi-district since 2016. And it irks him.

“I want us to get past this round pretty bad, honestly, and I think the girls know it, and they want it too,” he said. “We’ve had some great teams, multiple times we’ve gone to the Sweet 16, and yet, we need to get past the first round again. And as I say, I think we can do it, as long as we play consistently and get the most out of what we have.”

CAST OF CHARACTERS

If the Lady Coogs are to beat Los Fresnos and move on, adding to their total of 21 lifetime postseason wins, a number of girls will be at the fore of the accomplishment.

In infielder Annabel Segoviano, Tressler has one of the top hitters he has ever coached. The senior is swatting a massive .630 this season with seven homers and 42 RBI. Last year, Segoviano was headed for a record-breaking showing with a .667 mark and 45 RBI in just 20 ball games. Then the pandemic. For her career, the powerful second sacker has driven in 145 runs with 16 homers, slugged a mighty .856 and has a superhuman career average of .528 in 105 games. Segoviano has hit safely in all 21 games so far and has been flat murdering the ball lately, with five dongs in her last 20 at-bats.

Tressler notes that the dependable star is headed to Temple to play college softball next season, and that junior Kaylee O’Bryan, heir apparent in the cleanup spot, has the talent to follow suit.

O’Bryan has seamlessly moved to short after two seasons at third base and has some gaudy offensive numbers alongside those of the dangerous Segoviano. For a team that clubs .372 aggregate, O’Bryan has hammered five homers, scored 31 runs and carries a .537 average into bi-district. She’s walked 12 times with only three K’s, and as a group, North is choosy, with 80 walks and just 85 strikeouts.

Truthfully, getting past 3 and 4 in the Lady Coog lineup is a nightmare but the coach is quick to add that other girls have performed admirably to get the club where it’s gotten to date. Center fielder Mara Guerra has been excellent in her senior season, with a .414 average and 25 runs scored.

“Mara has been so good the past two years, she’s really come through for us, doing her job by getting on base, coming around to score, using her speed,” Tressler said. “And man, in the outfield, she is an animal! What a job she’s done in center for us.”

Melo Cantu is another Lady Coog who earned the plaudits of a tough taskmaster.

“This has really been her year, she’s turned it up,” he said, noting that the senior has hit .441 and continued her always technically sound exploits in the outfield.

POSTSEASON NOTES: THE FOE

Attention now turns to Los Fresnos, a group that carved out an impressive season in 32-6A, with a 12-2 mark, and non-district win over Brownsville Vets, Weslaco East and Lyford to boot. The Lady Falcons were beaten twice by Harlingen South in the league and average 10.5 runs per game, allowing 2.3; they shut out five opponents in league action.

Historically, Los Fresnos has been solid if unspectacular, and this might be the best team the school has had yet. The Lady Falcons have made 13 playoff trips since 1997 but have been a one-and-done in all those seasons except for 2014, when they beat McAllen and EHS before losing to San Benito in the third round. Included in the bi-district record are losses to the Lady Bobcats back in 2004 and 2012, and a first-stage setback against North which came in 2015.

Over five seasons starting in 2017, Los Fresnos has played ECISD schools six times in non-district, winning twice.

VELA V. WESLACO, THU/FRI/SAT

Vela was a strong second in 31-6A this season, behind a revamped Pharr North crew, going 14-2 with an average of 11.8 runs per game in league action. The Lady SaberCats allowed a skimpy 2.7 per match and won all six Rivalry Games against local opponents.

Offensively, the team average is a robust .397 as the senior quarter of Karina Guzman, Monie Montilla, Bri Salinas, and Elysia Pena have combined for a whopping 101 RBI. Vela has been selective as well at the plate, drawing 52 walks and fanning 59 times. The unit has produced a stunning 23 home runs and 46 doubles.

The one-two pitching tandem of Guzman (7-1, 2.08 ERA) and Salinas (7-1, 2.23) is among the Valley’s best, heading into the bi-district round against Weslaco. Those two have been helped by a sound defense that has committed just 27 errors in 18 ball games.

Weslaco is not quite the juggernaut that went all the way to state back in 2016 but is still a worthy foe to say the least. The Pantherettes scored non-district victories over Pioneer, Weslaco East, and Mercedes (twice), and all those schools are top-notch this season. In 32-6A they went 10-4, splitting with Harlingen and Harlingen South, losing to Los Fresnos twice.

The club averages 8.3 runs per game and is particularly solid on defense, allowing just 2.4 per game with six shutouts in league play.

The teams have a bit of history, as back in 2018 the Lady Sabes defeated Weslaco in bi-district, winning two of three games. That was a year before the Pantherettes were district mates with the Edinburgs and went 6-2 against town teams. As stated, Weslaco was about the best in the Valley in 2016 and 2017, amassing eight postseason victories in that span and making back-to-back appearances in the Sweet 16. The run ended in 2016 with a loss to Pearland in the state semis.

Game One will be Thursday night in the Mid Valley Vela with the second set-to Friday at Vela; if necessary, the third game will be back in Weslaco Saturday.

Vela was a strong second in 31-6A this season, behind a revamped Pharr North crew, going 14-2 with an average of 11.8 runs per game in league action. The Lady SaberCats allowed a skimpy 2.7 per match and won all six Rivalry Games against local opponents.

Offensively, the team average is a robust .397 as the senior quarter of Karina Guzman, Monie Montilla, Bri Salinas, and Elysia Pena have combined for a whopping 101 RBI. Vela has been selective as well at the plate, drawing 52 walks and fanning 59 times. The unit has produced a stunning 23 home runs and 46 doubles.

The one-two pitching tandem of Guzman (7-1, 2.08 ERA) and Salinas (7-1, 2.23) is among the Valley’s best, heading into the bi-district round against Weslaco. Those two have been helped by a sound defense that has committed just 27 errors in 18 ball games.

Weslaco is not quite the juggernaut that went all the way to state back in 2016 but is still a worthy foe to say the least. The Pantherettes scored non-district victories over Pioneer, Weslaco East, and Mercedes (twice), and all those schools are top-notch this season. In 32-6A they went 10-4, splitting with Harlingen and Harlingen South, losing to Los Fresnos twice.

The club averages 8.3 runs per game and is particularly solid on defense, allowing just 2.4 per game with six shutouts in league play.

The teams have a bit of history, as back in 2018 the Lady Sabes defeated Weslaco in bi-district, winning two of three games. That was a year before the Pantherettes were district mates with the Edinburgs and went 6-2 against town teams. As stated, Weslaco was about the best in the Valley in 2016 and 2017, amassing eight postseason victories in that span and making back-to-back appearances in the Sweet 16. The run ended in 2016 with a loss to Pearland in the state semis.

Game One will be Thursday night in the Mid Valley Vela with the second set-to Friday at Vela; if necessary, the third game will be back in Weslaco Saturday.

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