Marching On: McAllen Memorial wins Game 3 vs. Kerrville Tivy, advances to Elite 8

McAllen Memorial teammates celebrate in the middle of the field after their victory over Kerrville Tivy in a Region IV-5A Semifinal series playoff game 3 at Cabaniss Field on Saturday, May 25, 2024, in Corpus Christi. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

CORPUS CHRISTI — The clock may have struck midnight during McAllen Memorial’s Game 3 marathon against Kerrville Tivy but the Cinderella-esque Mustangs’ weren’t out of magic just yet.

McAllen Memorial won an extra-inning Game 3 thriller that ended on a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the ninth to defeat Kerrville Tivy 8-7 on Saturday at Cabaniss Field in a contest that lasted four and ½ hours and finished at 1:30 a.m.

Memorial won Game 1 of the Region IV-5A Semifinal best-of-three series 8-2 on Thursday, with Tivy winning Game 2 early Saturday evening by a score of 9-7 to force the decisive Game 3.

The series win sends the Mustangs (26-13) to the Region IV-5A Final for the first time in program history. Memorial will face Leander Rouse (33-9-1) in Round 5, also known as the Elite 8, with game details to be announced. 

Kerrville Tivy, who had a great postseason run themselves as the fourth seed from District 26-5A, finishes its season 21-21 overall.

“This was amazing. We’re super excited for the boys to be able to handle this — we were kind of dying there at the end and it kind of came down to who wanted it more,” Memorial head coach Roque Cortinas said. “It honestly feels kind of like one of those Cinderella stories. We barely got in the playoffs; I think if we would have lost one game at the end, we wouldn’t have made the playoffs. We sneak in and we just get on a roll after that, just playing ball — it’s awesome to watch.”

McAllen Memorial catcher Lukas Cabrera (12) attempts to tag Kerrville Tivy runner Robert Johnson (23) at home plate in a Region IV-5A Semifinal series playoff game 2 at Cabaniss Field on Saturday, May 25, 2024, in Corpus Christi. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

Memorial’s magic was on display in Game 3 in the bottom of the seventh by erasing a one-run deficit to force extra innings and again in the bottom of the ninth as the Mustangs closed the show in walk-off fashion.

The top of the Memorial order was due up in the bottom of the ninth with the game locked at 7-7. Left fielder Erik Serrano drew a five-pitch walk, shortstop Jose Rivera singled on a hard hit grounder to left field and third baseman Emilio Preza followed with a four-pitch walk to load the bases with no outs and clean up hitter and first baseman Eloy Lozano at the plate. A Tivy pitching change didn’t make a difference as Lozano drew the walk-off RBI on a bases-loaded four-pitch walk to score Serrano and secure the Mustangs Game 3 victory.

“My mentality going up there was to be a smart player and be a team player. Take til you get a strike and if you don’t get a strike, you get a walk and that wins us the game,” Lozano said. “It’s an overwhelming amount of joy.”

Trailing 7-6 and down to their last three outs in the bottom of the seventh, the Mustangs had to find a way to push one across. Memorial put runners on first and second with two outs on walks by designated hitter Gael Aguirre and Rivera. Preza hit a grounder to third base that was fielded by Tivy’s Jayden Harrington, who then tagged Memorial pinch runner Etziel Gonzalez on his way to third before the ball fell out of Harrington’s glove, resulting in all three runners safe with two outs.

Lozano stepped into the batter’s box and bounced a grounder off the turf high towards third base which allowed Gonzalez to come across to tie the game at 7-7.

Memorial center fielder Kane Coy, who pitched earlier in the day in Game 2, threw 3 ⅔ innings of shutout ball to earn the Game 3 win, allowing four walks and one hit while striking out three.

McAllen Memorial’s Kane Coy (13) pitches against Kerrville Tivy in a Region IV-5A Semifinal series playoff game 3 at Cabaniss Field on Saturday, May 25, 2024, in Corpus Christi. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

“I’m so proud of that guy. I just told him right now, ‘that’s all you,’” Cortinas said about Coy. “He’s dying, two games, pitched in the first game, played outfield — that’s all heart.”

“We’ve done so much to even get here and to think we’re getting another week is just a privilege. I’m just excited I’m doing it with my family, doing it with my team,” Coy said.

Second baseman Daniel Flores led the Mustangs offensively with 2-for-4 hitting, one RBI, one run and a walk in Game 3. Lozano drove in two on the RBI single in the bottom of the seventh and bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the ninth. Coy and Gonzalez finished with one RBI apiece in Game 3.

Game 2, which started at 5 p.m., was a back-and-forth affair between the Mustangs and Antlers.

There were four lead changes through the first four innings with Tivy ahead 5-3 entering the top of the sixth. The Antlers then put together a four-run frame to extend its lead to 9-3.

McAllen Memorial’s Daniel Flores against Kerrville Tivy in a Region IV-5A Semifinal series playoff game 3 at Cabaniss Field on Saturday, May 25, 2024, in Corpus Christi. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

McAllen Memorial cut that advantage in half on a three-run home run by Flores in the bottom of the sixth to make it 9-6 and another run scored on an error in the bottom of the seventh to make it a 9-7 game, sending the series into Game 3.

Coy went 1-for-3 with two RBI and a stolen base in Game 2, while Flores finished 1-for-3 with a 3-run home run, two run scored and one walk. Serrano had two hits, Preza went 1-for-3 with one RBI and a walk, and Rivera went 1-for-2 with one run and two walks.

Now, after winning three Game 3s in-a-row and advancing farther than any McAllen Memorial baseball team has gone before, the Mustangs will play next week for a spot at the UIL Class 5A State Tournament.

“It’s an absolute privilege to get to play in the Elite 8. We’re looking forward to next week,” Coy said. “We’re striving to go to the state championship.”

Photo Gallery: McAllen Memorial advance into the elite 8 after series victory over Kerrville