PHARR — La Joya High locked down Weslaco High to win a 3-0 pitcher’s duel in Game 1 of their Region IV-6A bi-district best-of-three playoff series Friday night at PSJA Southwest High School.

La Joya (18-2, 16-0) left-handed pitcher and Texas Tech commit J.C. Gutierrez clashed against Weslaco’s Xando Castillo as the two put on a clinic.

With the game scoreless entering the bottom of the fifth inning, the Coyotes were finally able to find life at the plate with three runs on RBIs by Mario Salinas and Angel Solis.

La Joya leads the series 1-0. Game 2 of the Region IV-6A bi-district best-of-three playoff series between the Coyotes and Panthers is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday at PSJA Southwest High School. Game 3, if necessary, will be played 30 minutes after the conclusion of Game 2.

“I got to give it to Weslaco’s pitcher. He had us a little off-balance, but thank God for that (fifth) inning,” La Joya High head coach Mario Flores said. “I’m very proud of them. The whole year, if the top of the lineup is not having their day, the bottom of the lineup has to pick it up, and they did the job. J.C. pitched a real good game. He faced adversity at times with runners on, but he came through.”

La Joya’s lefty Gutierrez tossed 6.0 innings as he allowed no runs, one hit and six walks, while striking out 10 Panthers.

“I treated it just like another game. I knew what I had to get done, I knew what was at stake, so I had to show out,” he said. “My mindset whenever I’m pitching against a good pitcher is to beat them in every inning, pitching-wise and hitting-wise.”

Before Salinas and Solis came through with the game’s only RBIs, Flores told his group to make the most of what was potentially their last opportunity at the plate.

“We had some pretty rough at bats the first three innings. I talked to them and told them they have one more at-bat and it’s going to be them to bring us home and they did the job,” Flores said.

La Joya High’s Mario Salinas (5) slides into second base against Weslaco High’s Isaac Rodriguez (14) while teammate Chris Casares (9) looks on in a Region IV-6A Bi-District playoff game at PSJA Southwest Baseball Stadium on Friday, May 6, 2021, in Pharr. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

Facing a full-count with runners on second and third, Salinas blasted a line drive to left field which allowed Nate Perez to cross the plate for a 1-0 lead.

“I was nervous, but I knew we could do it. It was a 3-2 count, so anything that comes my way I’m going to put it in play and make their defense work,” Salinas said.

Solis followed it up during the next at-bat as he drilled a ball to deep center field to drive in two more Coyotes runs for the final 3-0 margin.

Weslaco’s Castillo scattered six hits, two walks and six strikeouts across six innings, while allowing two earned runs.

La Joya’s Hugo Cantu closed things out with a perfect seventh inning as he struck out one to earn the save.

Although the Coyotes have a 1-0 series lead entering today, Gutierrez and company aren’t counting their chickens.

“We can’t get over-confident, we can’t get cocky. We have to make the routine plays and score some runs,” he said.