MISSION — La Joya Palmview’s Bianca Fernandez stepped up to bat during the bottom of the third needing to capitalize on her second plate appearance of the night.
The Lobos’ senior leader walked into the batter’s box after a line drive straight at Valley View first baseman Ariana Rosales helped the Tigers turn two by tagging out a runner scrambling back to the bag and seemingly stalling Palmview’s first rally of the night.
With a runner at second and the best scoring opportunity of the night to that point, Fernandez ripped a hard-hit ground ball between shortstop and third base.
The grounder ricocheted off the lip of the outfield grass as it exited the infield dirt and shot up in the air toward the fence in left field plating the first run of the night.
Fernandez’s RBI triple helped Palmview find its mojo and pull ahead for a 4-2 victory over Valley View at home Tuesday night to give the Lobos their eighth consecutive win in a matchup between two of the Rio Grande Valley’s hottest teams in Class 5A.
The Lobos will travel to Corpus Christi Flour Bluff for their next game to kick off a best-of-three bi-district playoff series against the Hornets at 7 p.m. Thursday, while the Tigers will travel to Mercedes to begin a best-of-three series in the bi-district round against Mercedes at the same time.
Both teams will be playing their first postseason games in program history in those contests Thursday.
“We had to make mental adjustments because we were missing our catcher and we had to make a last-minute adjustment to make them comfortable,” La Joya Palmview head coach Jessica Cardenas-Russell said. “It took us a while to get started … but that’s where communication helps. That’s been the biggest key for us and thankfully we were able to pull through.”
Fernandez’s big base hit in the third was only a prelude of things to come for the Lobos’ senior.
After her team surrendered runs in both the top of the fourth and fifth, she helped Palmview surge ahead for good during another rally to jumpstart a three-run bottom of the fifth.
She swatted a bloop single to center field that drove in catcher Kimberly Martinez from third to break a 2-2 tie, and later scored on a line drive that zipped right past the reach of the Tigers’ third baseman.
Fernandez ended a stellar 2-for-3 night at the plate with a pair of RBIs and a run, as the Lobos continued to use timely hitting to extend the longest active winning streak of any team in District 30-5A.
“I think that’s going to be very crucial moving forward,” Cardenas-Russell said. “We can be a very sound defensive team, but if we can’t put runs on the board then we’re not going to win. That’s where we have to make sure we battle through and keep getting those hits when we need them.”
Martinez, however, made her impact felt in the game defensively.
The Lobos’ everyday shortstop filled in behind the plate and played one of the top defensive games of any catcher across the RGV this season.
Martinez used her arm and heads-up play to throw out five Tigers baserunners in several key situations.
She gunned down runners at second in both the fourth and fifth to record the third out of the inning each time and stymie Valley View rallies. She struck again in the seventh, hosing the would-be tying run at first base with one out in the frame.
“Defensively, we put in the work that any coach would want to put in during a warm-up game,” Cardenas-Russell said. “We’ve told them you’ve got to be ready, regardless of where you’re at. I think that helped us because just because someone wasn’t in their normal spot, we were still able to pull through.”
La Joya Palmview improves to 13-2 overall on the season, while Valley View falls to 8-10, snapping a four-game winning streak.
“This was a good warm-up game against a really great Valley View team,” Cardenas-Russell said. “They were aggressive baserunners and I told them that’s what we’ll look to see when we go up against Flour Bluff. It’s a good confidence builder.”