March 7, 2023

By Greg Selber

Click here for select game photos

In softball, as we know, there is a chant or cheer for every situation, usually rendered in spirited fashion and designed to liven up the atmosphere while the girls play. At Econ these days the players have a fun bit in the repertoire, and it goes like this: when one of the Lady Jags smacks a foul ball, the kids on the bench will holler, “Which way? That way!” meaning on the next pitch, the preferred outcome is a hard-hit ball somewhere onto the field of play.

The cheer is in a way a metaphor for Coach Sam Arciba’s squad in 2023, as the Lady Jags seek to straighten it out, as it were, and hop into the playoff race in the newly configured District 31-6A. Though Tuesday’s home game against Brownsville Hanna ended with a loss, Arciba and her team seem to have enough elements in place to make a run for the roses. The Lady Jags will get started in earnest on Friday with a road trip to Mission, while city rivals North and EHS begin the schedule with contests against La Joya and at P-SJ-A, respectively.

As the Lady Jags kick off the slate, they know that they’ll have standout catcher Angelinne De Hoyos-Aguirre back in the lineup, after she sat out the Hanna game with a dental issue. Hitting .571 so far with seven extra-base hits, De Hoyos-Aguirre is one of the best all-around ballplayers in the league, and her absence Tuesday forced Arciba into some creative positioning. She and assistant Gina Garza – the club has a distinctly Bobcat-ian flavor these days – moved pieces around and went to battle, staying close to the Lady Eagles through the early innings, only to fall off the mountain in the final stages. Econ is making contact at the plate this season, averaging five runs per game, and cracked out seven hits against Hanna.

The double-play combo of shortstop Cassie Vega-Farias and second baseman Katelyn Martinez gives the program a solid spine, and each collected two hits against Hanna. Vega-Farias was particularly impressive with two powerful knocks, including a long triple in the sixth on which she uncoiled long arms and legs to smash one to the fence. Directly after, sophomore Evelyn Cano drove her in with a single, and she too provided a pair of hits in the home game. Cano (1B-OF) was behind the plate in place of De Hoyos-Aguirre, with Milagros “Mila” Gonzalez at third instead of her usual outfield post. But the Lady Jags weathered the changes well enough, making just a pair of errors, while veteran hurler Adri Tagle hit the strike zone with solid offerings before tiring late.

Along the way, the Lady Jags turned a double play to get out of the first inning, got some strong defensive work from Gonzalez in the second, and had a rally in the third which was squelched by outstanding Hanna defense. In the fourth, Vega-Farias went to her knees at short to grab a shot, and fired to second for the force, while later in the frame, Bryanna Alvarez snared a vicious liner in right field.

Arciba’s group missed some opportunities against Hanna, as in the fourth there were runners at second and third with two outs, without a scratch being made. Econ bunted well Tuesday, as basketball star Dana Serna laid down a pair of beauties, and she also made a nice catch in left field of a scorching drive.

Looking at the district race to come, one sees La Joya off to a fine start at 15-3, with P-SJ-A hammering out a surprising 15-6 mark, including a victory over Harlingen Tuesday. Mission has been subpar for the most part, while EHS (7-11-1) and North (8-12-1) are seeking to jump into the hunt with positive vibes on Friday.

The Lady Bobcats are breaking in a pair of freshman pitchers, Desirea Reyna and Eileen Reyna, who have combined for 75 strikeouts in 74 innings; the team ERA of 7.09 should steadily recede as the seasons wears on and the promising newbies build experience. Senior outfielder Shelby Celedon, the college signee, is batting a brisk .458 with 16 RBI so far as the backbone of a seasoned crew including junior Emily Rangel (.459) and seniors Karina Garcia (.324) and Ariella Ramirez (.361).

North also has a mix of veterans and newcomers, as Joliana Mancha (.417, her usual workmanlike effort on the mound) and speedy outfielder Danielle Pruneda (.400, 17 runs) lead the squad forward. The youth movement is paced by sophomore Kyla Rodriguez (.378, 10 RBI) and freshmen Andee Winnipeg (13 RBI, early candidate for Coolest Name honors) and Caylee Ramirez. The last has been great in her debut season with a team-high 18 hits, plus 13 RBI.

After Friday’s kickoff night comes Spring Break, and then there’s EHS-Econ spicing the slate March 21, followed eventually by EHS-North March 28 and North-Econ three days later to conclude the first half. At this stage it’s anybody’s ball game, though La Joya and the Bears are looking somewhat formidable heading in, it must be said.

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