McAllen Memorial ready for fourth-round series against Kerrville Tivy

McAllen Memorial's Hugo Rodriguez (7) pitches against Corpus Christi Veterans in a Region IV-5A area round playoff series game 2 at McAllen Memorial High School on Saturday, May 11, 2024, in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

McALLEN McAllen Memorial is marching into the fourth round of the state playoffs for the first time in program history, and it has proven people wrong every step of the way.

The Mustangs have played like a team that has nothing to lose and everything to gain because nobody thought McAllen Memorial would be here in the first place except the guys inside their own dugout.

“You can actually see the maturity in these guys in the last month from not being a program that’s been very successful it was more coming out here and doing it just to do it. Once they started seeing the results, that we have a pretty good team, we have a chance, they’re really enjoying it out here and feeling like they have a purpose to be out here every day,” said second-year head coach Roque Cortinas, a McAllen Memorial alumnus. “It’s making us a better team because we’re so relaxed with the attitude we have nothing to lose. We weren’t supposed to be here, so the pressure is off our shoulders when it comes to that.”

McAllen Memorial’s David An, Manuel Villa, Lukas Cabrera and the rest of the players celebrate their win over McAllen High during Game 3 of a Region IV-5A quarterfinal at McAllen memorial baseball field on Saturday, May 18, 2024 in McAllen. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

Now, the 2024 Mustangs have a chance to continue writing program history as they enter a Sweet 16 best-of-three playoff series against the Kerrville Tivy Antlers this weekend.

McAllen Memorial (24-13) opens its Region IV-5A semifinal series against Kerrville Tivy (20-19) at 7 p.m. today at Cabaniss Field in Corpus Christi. Game 2 is scheduled for 5 p.m. Saturday at Cabaniss Field, with Game 3 to follow 30 minutes after, if necessary.

“Tivy is a team, similar to us, that relies a lot on their pitching. They’re a good team with some good arms, so we’re just going to go out there and enjoy it and give it everything we got,” Cortinas said.

McAllen Memorial’s Jose Rivera bats against Brownsville Porter during a Region IV-5A bi-district playoff series Thursday at McAllen Memorial High School. Photo by Andrew Cordero – Special to

McAllen Memorial has won back-to-back Game 3s on their road to the regional semifinals, showing it can grind out a tough, three-game series win.

First, against Coastal Bend power Corpus Christi Veterans in Round 2. Then last weekend against crosstown rival McAllen High, which historically has dominated Memorial during the past decade with a 14-1 record in the last 15 meetings.

The Mustangs once again showed this season is different by winning Game 3 against the Bulldogs 12-2 in six innings to earn their spot in the Sweet 16.

“It feels great making history. We all believed in each other from the start,” sophomore pitcher Hugo Rodriguez said after the win. “Everyone counted us out, but we just stuck together and did what we believed we could do.”

McAllen Memorial’s Daniel Flores (17) reacts after the final out at first base to end the fifth inning to stop Corpus Christi Veterans runners from scoring in a Region IV-5A area round playoff series game 2 at McAllen Memorial High School on Saturday, May 11, 2024, in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

Memorial starts four seniors in UTRGV signee Manuel Villa, a 6-foot-4 right-handed pitcher; right fielder Jacob Sanchez, catcher Lukas Cabrera and second baseman Daniel Flores, who both signed to play baseball at Luna Community College in Las Vegas, New Mexico.

Their senior experience combined with a strong sophomore and junior class has provided a boost, and the Mustangs have put it all together this season to make program history at McAllen Memorial.

“We just kept battling, stuck through it and believed in each other. Last year we got the freshmen, this year they matured, we matured, we grew together as a team, and just balled out as a team and played together,” Flores said. “As the season kept going, we just put our faith in each other, our trust in each other and things started going our way. We worked hard all year and we’ve, for sure, proved people wrong.”

McAllen High’s Hayden Bortnick, left, is tagged out at home by McAllen Memorial’s Lukas Cabrera, right, during a Class 5A Region IV quarterfinals game at McAllen Memorial baseball field on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in McAllen. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

In the opposite dugout in Round 4 will be the Antlers. Tivy has defeated Liberty Hill, San Antonio Southwest and Boerne-Champion in the playoffs to reach this weekend’s regional semifinal series against McAllen Memorial.

“I feel like we need to practice with a chip on our shoulder because we are definitely the underdogs in this series, but who doesn’t like an underdog story?” Cabrera said. “What I want to see from our team is just continue playing the way we’re playing right now. We’re hot right now, so we just have to keep playing together and be united.”