EDINBURG — Edinburg High and Edinburg North met Friday for Round 2 of one of the Rio Grande Valley’s premier softball rivalries with much more than bragging rights at stake.
The Bobcats and Cougars entered the night within a half-game of one another in the District 31-6A standings, with each trying to lock up a postseason appearance with four teams still in the mix for the district’s final two playoff berths up for grabs.
In an intense game where momentum seesawed back and forth, Edinburg High first baseman Ashlie Ruiz and pitcher Alynna Garza pulled through in the clutch to power the Bobcats to an 8-6 road victory over their crosstown rivals and into the Class 6A playoff picture.
“In our first game against them, we didn’t do as well, so I really wanted redemption against them so badly,” Garza said. “I was super hungry and so was my team. This was a great team win and it really feels great.”
“Alynna does a great job in the circle,” Ruiz said. “We all really appreciate her and each other. I’m really proud of how we worked as a team tonight.”
The win improved Edinburg High to 9-7 overall and 9-6 in district play, while the loss dropped North to 12-6 overall and 8-6 in district competition.
The Bobcats’ victory also carries with it substantial postseason ramifications relating to District 31-6A’s crowded playoff race.
Edinburg High moves into fourth place trailing Mission High (11-6, 9-5 district) by half a game for third and ahead of Edinburg North and PSJA High — who topped La Joya High on Friday to move to 11-6 overall and 8-6 in district — by half a game for the 31-6A’s final playoff spot.
The Bobcats, however, now stand as the hottest team among the bunch after picking up their sixth win in seven games against the Cougars and handing first-place PSJA North its first loss of the season in a 6-0 victory.
“It’s all keeping up that confidence and trusting in each other,” Ruiz said. “We’ve been examining the little things and taking the positives out of the negatives as they come.”
In a contest that featured three ties and four lead changes, the Bobcats routinely found themselves trying to answer back to remain in control.
Edinburg High senior catcher Patty Davila ripped a two-run home run during the top of the first inning, but Edinburg North responded with back-to-back singles to lead off the home half of the inning.
The Cougars notched four hits in their first five plate appearances, which included a pair of RBI doubles, to knot the game up and set the stage for a high-stakes nail-biter.
“I just have to stay relaxed and rely on my team because (this win) wouldn’t have been possible without them,” Garza said. “I trusted myself and my defense. I knew that we were going to find a way to come back and win this game.”
Throughout the night, Davila and Ruiz always managed to power the Bobcats back in front of the rival Cougars.
Davila, Edinburg High’s cleanup hitter, finished a 2-for-4 night at the plate with a team-high four RBIs and the squad’s only extra-base hit.
Ruiz also delivered for the Bobcats out of the No. 5 spot in the lineup, finishing with a 3-for-4 game that featured three RBIs.
Edinburg High’s first baseman saved her best at-bat for last, though. Ruiz roped a laser of a line drive with the bases loaded that careened off the glove of North’s first baseman into left field.
Ruiz advanced to second on the throw into the infield and drove in two runs after a close play at the plate to break a 5-5 tie and put the Bobcats back ahead.
“When I went up there, I wanted to do it for myself, my team and my parents,” she said. “I just wanted to make everybody proud.”
A fielder’s choice gave Edinburg High an additional run and an 8-5 advantage with the Cougars down to their final six outs.
Edinburg North wouldn’t go down easily, however, as the team loaded the bases yet again. An infield single pushed a run across and put the go-ahead run on base for the Cougars, but that’s when Garza stepped up for Edinburg High.
The Bobcats’ pitcher worked out of the jam by striking out an opposing batter looking, her sixth of the night, and capped off a complete-game effort by retiring the Cougars in order to seal the victory in the seventh.
“I was just so determined to win this game that I had to get those outs,” Garza said. “I was just so confident in myself and my team that I just felt good and relaxed. I knew we were going to find a way.”
Edinburg High will close out the regular season at home against PSJA High at 7 p.m. Tuesday and clinches a playoff berth with a win.
Edinburg North will travel to PSJA High at 7 p.m. Saturday for a must-win game for both teams before hosting La Joya Juarez-Lincoln at the same time Tuesday in its regular-season finale.