McALLEN — Weslaco East pitcher Melissa Cabrera was dialed in the moment she stepped into the circle Friday night.
After hurling a shutout as part of a Game 1 victory Thursday, the Wildcats’ junior ace wasted hardly any time picking up right where she had left off.
Cabrera struck out the first batter she faced looking, quickly setting the tone for another dominant performance against McAllen Rowe.
She struck out nine Warriors hitters as part of a second consecutive complete-game shutout to extend her scoreless-innings streak to 14 in the postseason, leading Weslaco East to a 9-0 win and series sweep over Rowe in the bi-district round of the Class 5A playoffs.
“Her pitching was very helpful. She didn’t give up very many hits and our defense was solid,” sophomore catcher Jaisy “Piper” Caceres said. “Our defense has really been holding it together this year and our offense is doing very well.”
“She’s done an amazing job staying focused, being a leader and being a captain on this team,” Weslaco East head coach Victoria Vasquez said. “The great thing about her is that she can transfer her (impact) between her offense and her defense. When she has a bad at-bat, she doesn’t carry it over to the circle and that’s just the mental part of the game
Cabrera kept Rowe’s batters off-balance all night at the plate by peppering in a mix of blistering rise balls and off-speed pitches.
She allowed five hits all night to the Warriors, who were unable to advance a runner past second base until Destiny Menchaca’s to center field with two outs in the fifth, thanks in large part to the strength of East’s defense.
“I think we all had good confidence coming into this game and we executed,” Cabrera said. “Our defense helped us a lot. Our defense was very solid this game and I’m just glad that they’re there to back me up.”
“With a short season, we were still trying to figure out our defense and I want to say that every single one of my players is a utility player,” Vasquez said. “Wherever we asked them to move to, they did it. We found a defense that was working for us solid in the second round (of district play) and we just ran with it. It’s been amazing and worked great for us.”
The Wildcats, who have relied on their power hitting during a year in which they’ve shattered the school’s single-season home run record, turned to small ball to pull ahead early in Game 2.
A sac fly during the first inning after an Arianna Cabrera triple put East on the board first, but the team broke the game wide open in the second and never looked back from that point onward.
The Wildcats landed their first four batters on base to start the inning, thanks to a combination of errors and infield singles with none hitting the ball beyond the pitcher’s mound.
That translated to a five-run frame in which East batted around the lineup with aggressive baserunning helping to add two on wild pitches.
“We do work on speed and running the bases a lot,” Caceres said. “Our bunts came through and we were able to back our big hits up with small ball.”
“We’re always picking each other up, cheering each other on and just being loud has a lot to do with us getting hits,” Cabrera said. “Those runs gave us a lot of cushion. It’s not that we got comfortable, but we knew if we made a mistake that it was OK. We knew we were just going to get the next one.”
The loss drops Rowe, which finished third in District 31-5A, to 13-10 overall and ends the Warriors’ season, while East improves to 16-5-1 on the season with the victory.
The Wildcats advance to the area round of the 5A playoffs, where they will face District 29-5A champion Corpus Christi Carroll (26-5) next weekend after the Tigers outscored Roma 35-3 to sweep the Gladiators in their bi-district series.
Game times and locations for East and Carroll’s area-round matchup are still to be determined.
“It’s all really about what’s going on in our heads and I think our positive attitude really helped us out,” Caceres said. “I think if we just keep playing like we have been, then we’ll be able to hang in there with them.”
“Our team chemistry needs to be there,” Cabrera said. “We need to be up and loud, then we’ll be good.”