WESLACO — La Joya High and Weslaco High needed 11 innings and four hours, forty-four minutes to decide Game 3 of their Region IV-6A quarterfinal playoff series as the Coyotes emerged victorious 6-5 at Weslaco High School just after the clock struck midnight.

The Coyotes (23-15-1) advance to the Region IV-6A semifinals to face San Antonio Johnson. It will be La Joya’s second regional semifinal playoff appearance in three seasons. Game details are to be announced. Weslaco High’s season ends at 26-11-1 overall with the program’s first third round playoff appearance since 2007.

“We hit adversity in the first few innings but we came together. The kids came together and we kept saying ‘believe that we’re going to win’ and I’m glad we got it done,” La Joya head coach Mario Flores said. “I knew Weslaco was going to be tough. We just had to believe that we were going to win and we did.”

The La Joya Coyotes celebrate their third round playoff win over Weslaco on Saturday at Weslaco High School. Photo by Bryan Ramos.

Weslaco jumped out to a 4-0 lead after two innings before La Joya responded with a three-run third and added another run in the top of the fifth to tie the game at 4-4.

The score stayed even for the next five innings as pitching and defense became the key for both teams, exchanging pitch for pitch and out for out.

That changed in the top of the 11th as La Joya’s Alfonso Balboa drew a four-pitch walk with one out to put the winning run on base. After a flyout to right field, Rolando Solis singled on a hard hit ground ball to right field as Balboa advanced to third.

In stepped La Joya’s Homer Munoz, the Coyotes’ leading hitter in batting average, RBI and home runs with six on the season. A passed ball brought Balboa across from third to make the score 5-4, then Munoz hit a ball deep to left center to score Solis for a 6-4 lead.

“I just wanted to make hard contact. I found a pitch I liked, I ripped it and I felt relieved we went up two runs instead of one,” Munoz said. “At the end of the day, we allowed one in (in the bottom of the seventh) so I’m glad we scored that second run to score an insurance run because it came back to count in the end.”

Weslaco had no quit in them, however. The Panthers drew two walks to put runners on first and second with two outs and Isaiah Garza singled to left field to drive in Toby Perez from second to make it 6-5 in the bottom of the 11th.

Diego Castillo drew a four-pitch walk with two outs to load the bases for the Panthers, but a chopper to first base was caught by La Joya’s Roel Garcia who stepped on first for the final out of the game, sending the Coyotes into Round 4 once again. 

La Joya used three pitchers for one out each in the bottom of the 11th in Ivan Marron, Lucas Zambrano and Santiago Tijerina, who threw a no-hitter on 104 pitches in a Game 2 win against Weslaco on Friday.

Nick Balderas started and went six innings, allowing four runs, one earned, off five hits and five walks with four strikeouts. Edwin Zuniga took over in the seventh and pitched four scoreless innings with three hits, one walk and five strikeouts. Zuniga earned the win and Tijerina picked up the save.

“I’m proud of our pitching staff. Nick Balderas came in throwing strikes and we talked about that it was going to take us throwing strikes and good situational hitting,” La Joya head coach Mario Flores said. “I told Homer that he was due today, he was seeing the ball and he came through with a big hit. I’m very proud of our pitching though.”

Munoz led La Joya at the plate on 3-for-4 hitting with two RBI and two walks. Garcia, Zambrano and Kevin Flores all finished with one RBI apiece for La Joya.

Weslaco used three pitchers across the 11 innings with Stone Gomez getting the start. He gave up four runs, three earned, off six hits and three walks while striking out three. Julien Caseres entered in the sixth and pitched five shutout innings with three strikeouts.

Weslaco freshman John Reyna finished 2-for-4 with three RBI and two walks. Ryan Everitt went 3-for-5 with one walk and Tony Qunitero finished 1-for-4 with two walks and one run.

The Coyotes will now prepare for a fourth round playoff series against San Antonio Johnson (25-9).

“We wanted this really bad. I think today was a great day and we accomplished everything we set out to,” Munoz said. “We started off slow but we ended up coming back fast. … Each inning it got tougher and tougher, I know they were tired too. Our pitching was great and it was a great game even though we were tired. We came through at the end of the day, especially with the pitching. The pitching was on point today.”