BROWNSVILLE — The Brownsville St. Joseph Bloodhounds picked up two home wins over the Rio Hondo Bobcats on Saturday.
In the first game of the doubleheader, the teams’ aces pitted against each other. Ivan Juarez took the mound for the Bobcats and Nick Jackson got the start for the Bloodhounds. St. Joseph came from behind to pick up an 8-5 win with Rolando Gonzalez recording a save after shutting down the Bobcats in the top of the seventh.
Game 2 was played under a tournament time limit. The Bloodhounds came out on top again in a 12-9, three-inning game that gave both teams a chance to test some young arms on the mound.
“I wanted both games, but the first game both of us were coming out with our best, so taking the first game was really, really important to me,” Bloodhounds coach Steve Najera said. “One of the things I really wanted to accomplish in the second game was just to see what my younger kids look like on the mound. They did fairly well, we had a few bright spots in there. They still don’t have a lot of velocity, but I just told them, ‘Come in and throw strikes, especially in pressure situations.’ I just wanted to evaluate them.”
Rio Hondo coach Sergio Gonzalez was pleased with the effort Juarez delivered in Game 1. Juarez had been working on a limited pitch count in prior games, but on Saturday Gonzalez “let him go” and he performed well under the green light. Juarez kept SJA’s bats quiet for most of the contest and helped the Bobcats hold a lead heading into the bottom of the sixth.
“It was a pretty solid game, going back and forth,” Gonzalez said of Game 1. “Their pitcher did a good job keeping us off-balance. We made contact, but directly to their fielders. It was a good matchup between the guys. (Najera) told me he was waiting until today to throw his ace against our ace, so it was kind of like a challenge and I told the guys, ‘Rise to the occasion.’ Those are the types of ballgames we need to get better in so when we face (district opponents), it’ll help us out.”
Pitchers had a tough time in the second game as both skippers gave game reps to some new arms on their young rosters ahead of district play. Four different pitchers took the mound for the Bobcats during a lengthy second inning, and the Bloodhounds had a new pitcher in each of the three innings.
Hitters took advantage of the slower velocities and sent hard knocks all across the field. Denis Garcia was a standout in the box for the Bloodhounds, and Najera also liked what he saw from MJ Morales.
“We had a very good rally (in the first game). They really hit the ball well in that last inning, and they carried that over to the second game,” Najera said. “I was happy to see (Morales) put the ball in play today, really hit the ball hard. Denis Garcia, one of our seniors, came up with a really clutch hit. Going into that last inning, we had 7-8-9 coming up, and I told him, ‘I need one of you to step up. We need at least one hit in the bottom of the order.’ He really came up with that big-time hit that set the tone for the rest of the inning.”
Najera was happy with the way the Bloodhounds adjusted to the slower velocities during the second game after facing Juarez. Denis Garcia hit a single, Morales reached base in both of her at-bats and Edgar Garcia recorded two hits.
Christian Lozano recorded two singles in the second game for Rio Hondo and had two RBIs. Jesus Vasquez knocked a two-run shot up the middle during the second inning and reached base in all three at-bats. Juarez sent a rocket down the third-base line for a double and drove in a run. Gonzalez was pleased to see the Bobcats make adjustments at the plate against each new SJA pitcher.
“These games allow us to play everyone, give them experience,” Gonzalez said. “I have a lot of underclassmen, only five seniors on the roster, so I’m just trying to get new guys on the mound, in the lineup, on the field, things like that. Last weekend when we saw a slower velocity, we didn’t adjust. We were out on our front foot, but this time we adjusted, kept our weight back and we were hitting tall, so I was happy that we made those type of adjustments at the plate.”