HARLINGEN — The Harlingen South Lady Hawks captured a bi-district championship to go along with their District 32-6A title by sweeping the PSJA High Lady Bears on Friday.
Junior Iliana Saucedo was clutch at the plate and in the circle to help the Lady Hawks blow past PSJA High 10-2 to take the series and set up a date with San Antonio O’Connor in Round 2 of the Class 6A playoffs. The junior center fielder/pitcher demolished the ball for a deep home run to dead center, drove in three runs and tossed four shutout innings of relief with 10 strikeouts.
“I was a little nervous coming into this round because it is playoffs, but I knew I had to pull through for my team so I just tried to keep a level head,” Saucedo said. “It’s really amazing. I’m so glad I get to have another game with my seniors and with this team, because we’ll never have this team again. … I always try to do my best, and it turned out good for me. I was just trying to get a base hit, and it turned into a little more than that. My approach is always the same, just swing for the fences.”
PSJA High came out firing on all cylinders and scored two runs during the top half of the first inning. Alexis Morin got the two-out rally started with a double to right field, then an infield error on a shot by Kaylah Hernandez put two runners on. Madison Lopez battled to a full count, then ripped a two-run double to right field.
Lady Bears starting pitcher senior Ellie Aleman kept Harlingen South’s bats quiet the first time through the order. She held them scoreless, allowing two hits during the first two innings.
But once the Lady Hawks adjusted to the velocity, the offense came alive. Saucedo drove in the first run of the game in the third, scoring junior left fielder Kaitlin Dones after she reached on a two-out double. Sophomore third baseman Karyme Martinez scored Saucedo with an extra-base single to right.
Small ball and throwing errors committed by PSJA High padded South’s lead in the fourth. Yezenia Perez led off the frame with a double off the left-center wall, then Kayla Flores, Alyssa Ledesma and Dones all laid down bunts. Errant throws by defenders and hustling down the line by batters scored three runs for the Lady Hawks.
Dones notched her third hit of the game and tabbed two RBIs with a double in the fifth. Saucedo followed that with a two-run bomb to make it 9-2 in favor of South. PSJA High switched pitchers after the homer, but the Lady Hawks still tacked on an insurance run in the sixth as Perez showed off her wheels after notching a double.
“We really wanted to finish it. We didn’t want to come back on Saturday. I’m glad I was able to pull through because I came back from a tough spot and was able to pull through today,” Dones said. “We definitely found our rhythm (third time through the lineup). Knowing that I’ve already hit off this (pitcher), it’s great to come back and feel relaxed, so I had that going in.”
Junior Janyssa Ramos got the start in the circle for South and pitched three innings with two hits, one walk and two strikeouts. Saucedo blew the ball past the Lady Bears’ batters and only allowed one hit through the final four frames.
After the win, Martinez told his team he knew it could win in the area round, too. He praised the tenacity South showed when trailing throughout the season and in the series finale, and said the team’s fighting spirit can carry it far.
“That team, they’re well-coached and they’ve got great athletes out there,” Martinez said. “We told the girls coming into the game it was not going to be a cakewalk. Last night was a dogfight and today was a dogfight, and I’m just so proud of the girls. Down 2-0, they showed their resilience to hang tough and come back.
“Being down doesn’t scare us. We’re always in the ball game,” Martinez said. “They’ve got grit. We may not be the most talented, but this team has had the most heart. They refuse to lose and refuse to quit. With that attitude, you can go up against anybody and have a chance. That’s what’s great about this team.”