The Brownsville Veterans Memorial Lady Chargers used 10 hits to power past the PSJA Memorial Wolverines in the opening game of a Class 5A bi-district series Thursday.
Junior catcher Natalie Mendoza was 3-for-4 at the plate and blasted two-run home runs in two consecutive at-bats to lead the Lady Chargers to the 8-3 victory.
“Oh, my gosh, it felt great. It was awesome. I just really thank God for giving us the faith and the confidence to do well,” Mendoza said. “It was very important to get the first win at home. It was great. At the beginning of the game I told the girls, ‘Let’s go in with confidence, let’s play without any fear and let’s just have a good time.’”
Brownsville Veterans did have a good time right from the jump, recording three hits in the opening inning to score three runs. Designated hitter Reggie Santivanez knocked a RBI single to right-center and center fielder Cristina Gonzalez drove in two on an extra-base double that PSJA Memorial’s right fielder bobbled.
“The score of the game doesn’t indicate how intense this game was,” BVM coach Rayner Cardenas said. “We knew what to expect from them. We knew they’re a great hitting team and their pitcher is hard to hit. But when we come out and hit the ball well at the beginning of the game, it gave us some confidence. That extra boost relaxed the girls, because most of them have never experienced the playoffs because a lot of them are freshmen and sophomores.”
Defensive issues in the outfield were a common theme for the Wolverines through the first four innings. The Lady Chargers took advantage of popups bouncing off defender’s gloves and hit behind runners to open a 6-2 lead midway through the game.
PSJA Memorial got on the board in the fourth on a no-doubt, two-run homer over the left field wall by third baseman Cassandra Cepeda. The Wolverines added a run in the fifth as pitcher Jasmine Martinez sent a RBI triple to deep center field with two outs.
Outside of those two innings, Lady Chargers sophomore pitcher Alexis Tamez was lights-out in the circle. She sat the Wolverines down in order in four innings, including the first three, and only allowed four hits through seven innings of work. She struck out five, issued two walks and had great control of her arsenal of pitches.
“She’s grown up so much from when we started in January,” Cardenas said. “She’s learned to be a pitcher, and by that I mean throwing a certain pitch at this particular time, changing locations, rather than just trying to blow balls by the batter. She always says in practice she feels like she has to do her job for the rest of the girls, because they work so hard that she’s focused on doing her job for them.”
Tamez had a solid defense behind her to help clean up contact. Third baseman Lorena Rodriguez made several highlight-reel plays at the hot corner, and Gonzalez got the home crowd fired up when she raced in from center to make a diving catch at the edge of the infield dirt.
Mendoza’s bombs came in the fourth and sixth innings to secure the victory. She quickly got the runs back by answering Cepeda’s homer with her own long ball over the left-field wall. She showed off her discipline at the plate for the second, sitting back with two strikes against her to pull the off-speed pitch down the line and over the fence.
“I knew she was going to throw me something nasty. She had been throwing other girls changeups, so I thought, ‘OK, two strikes, she’s going to throw me one.’ And sure enough it just stayed there,” Mendoza said. “Honestly I didn’t (know it was gone off the bat) but I got a really good barrel on it and I’m thankful it stayed up in my zone. It was great.”
Brownsville Veterans will travel to PSJA Memorial’s field today looking to close out the series and advance to Round 2. If needed, the deciding Game 3 is scheduled for 5 p.m. Saturday in Brownsville, barring any weather issues.
“You always want to win the first one, and you want to make a statement. We wanted to make sure that we came out and we tried our hardest to get this win first, and we’ll see what happens next,” Cardenas said.