The Weslaco Panthers and Sharyland Pioneer Diamondbacks highlighted Friday's postseason softball action across the Rio Grande Valley with a pair of pivotal wins in the area round of the state playoffs

The Weslaco High Panthers and Sharyland Pioneer Diamondbacks each picked up a pair of pivotal victories to highlight Friday’s area-round playoff softball slate across the Rio Grande Valley. 

The Panthers (18-4) traveled to Laredo, where they topped San Antonio Harlan 9-5 at the Laredo ISD Student Activity Center in Game 1 of their best-of-three series in the area round of the Class 6A state playoffs.

The victory marks the fifth consecutive win for a surging Weslaco squad looking to get back to the regional quarterfinals for the first time since 2017.

The Panthers have outscored their opponents 44-14 during their current winning streak and will take the field looking to clinch a series sweep against the Hawks at 2 p.m. Saturday at Laredo’s Student Activity Center.

A potential Game 3 between Weslaco and Harlan would be set to begin 30 minutes after the conclusion of Game 2.

The Diamondbacks (20-5-2), meanwhile, rebounded to secure a 4-1 victory over Corpus Christi Flour Bluff in a must-win Game 2 to keep their season alive Friday night in Hebbronville.

Pioneer was shut out by the Hornets in a 9-0 Game 1 loss, but the District 31-5A champions were able to lean on a strong outing in the circle from Reaghan Staehely.

The D’backs’ sophomore ace held Flour Bluff to five hits and struck out three while frequently working out of sticky situations during a complete-game effort to give her team the wire-to-wire win.

Pioneer pounced on the Hornets early by plating a pair of runs in both the first and second innings while maximizing limited scoring opportunities.

Faith Nunez’s RBI double with two outs in the top of the first drove in the first two runs of the night. Daniela Ortiz stole third base and home plate on an error in the second and was quickly followed by Alexia Bazan, who scored in the next at-bat on an RBI single by Alondra Rodriguez.

The Diamondbacks and Hornets will square off in a decisive Game 3, the first for any RGV softball team this postseason, at 3 p.m. Saturday in Hebbronville.

CORPUS CHRISTI CARROLL RUN RULES WESLACO EAST

The Weslaco East Wildcats (16-6-1) were outgunned in a five-inning 13-0 run-rule loss to Corpus Christi Carroll at Corpus Christi’s Cabaniss Field on Friday night.

East was limited to three hits in Game 1 of its best-of-three area-round series against the Tigers in the area round of the Class 5A state playoffs with junior twins Arianna and Melissa Cabrera combining to record a pair of singles and a double, respectively, at the top of the Wildcats lineup.

Carroll, the top seed from District 29-5A and district co-champions, tallied its third consecutive run-rule victory of the postseason after sweeping the Roma Gladiators in the bi-district round.

The Tigers were held scoreless in the first inning, but quickly found their footing offensively shortly thereafter posting a five-run second inning and a six-run fourth.

Carroll swatted a combined five doubles on the night with senior first baseman Bri Herrera adding a home run to the offensive onslaught.

Senior pitcher Vanessa Quiroga picked up the win in the circle after throwing five scoreless innings and striking out two while allowing only five baserunners.

The Wildcats will host Carroll for Game 2 of their series at 6 p.m. Saturday at Weslaco East and will force a decisive Game 3 tentatively slated for 6 p.m. Monday at Corpus Christi’s Cabaniss Field with a bounce-back win.

MERCEDES, PSJA NORTH STUMBLE LATE IN GAME 1 LOSSES

The Mercedes Tigers and PSJA North Raiders each dropped Game 1 of their respective best-of-three area-round series in the Class 5A and 6A state playoffs after promising starts were erased by late-game stumbles.

Mercedes (17-6) fell to District 29-5A co-champion Victoria West 3-0 in eight innings to snap its 14-game winning streak, which was the Rio Grande Valley’s longest active winning streak at any classification level entering the evening.

Tigers’ senior pitcher Kassidie Rodriguez followed up a perfect game during the bi-district round with another solid start in the circle, tallying 11 strikeouts and allowing only five hits through eight innings of work.

Mercedes, however, was stymied at the plate by Warriors’ pitcher Alexis James, who threw eight shutout innings and struck out six while surrendering only three singles.

West was able to crack the game open in extras after seven scoreless innings. The Warriors scored twice on wild pitches and also picked up an RBI single after an error on a bunt attempt loaded the bases.

The Tigers face a must-win Game 2 against Victoria West at 1 p.m. Saturday in Robstown with a potential Game 3 to follow 30 minutes afterward.

PSJA North (26-2-1) saw its seven-game winning streak snapped in a 12-6 Game 1 loss to San Antonio Brennan on Friday at Corpus Christi’s Cabaniss Field.

The Raiders moved out in front courtesy of a three-run first inning spurred by RBI doubles off the bats of pitcher Ariella Saenz and center fielder Victoria Espinoza.

North was unable to maintain its lead for long, though, when the Bears put up six runs during an offensive explosion in the bottom of the second.

PSJA North moved within a run of tying the game late after second baseman Katelyn Luera scored on a Bears’ error at second base and catcher Angel Lozano roped another RBI double to left, but Brennan posted another six-run frame in the fifth to move comfortably out in front.

The Raiders will face the Bears in a must-win Game 2 at 4 p.m. Saturday at Cabaniss Field in Corpus Christi with a potential Game 3 between Brennan and North to follow 30 minutes afterward.

Email: amcculloch@themonitor.com

Twitter: @ByAndyMcCulloch