The memory was still fresh, from a 12-0 lop-sided shut-out loss to old rivals and district favorite Jourdanton which took place in Atascosa County during tournament play just 17 days prior. The girls in blue seemed to take it a bit personal, as they were focused from the time they began to warm-up according to Coach Travis Crowley.
At times it looked as if youthful mistakes would prove deadly for the Natalia Lady Mustangs, as they battled the Jourdanton Squaws (13-4-1) in the 26-3A opener Monday afternoon in Natalia.
Both squads down the stretch had their moments to take control, much to credit each other’s offenses and pitching staff.
At the end of the day, a two run home-run by JuJu Morales in the 6th, a stand-up double in the 8th by Morales and a SAC fly by Felicia Guzman proved to be the deal breakers, as Natalia stunned district favorite and recently state ranked Jourdanton 10-9 in a thriller of a contest.
“It was a great game played by both teams,” Natalia Head Coach Travis Crowley said. “Again, we allowed teams to hang around, by giving them runs on routine plays that were errors, but I can’t say enough about how much we fought until the end.”
Neither team had true dominating pitching, but what they did have were athletes on the mound who battled their tails off, giving it their all coming up with clutch Ks when it counted most and forcing fly-outs and ground outs in other big moments. At the end of the day, Natalia sophomore Daniella Garza out-lasted a very talented Jourdanton Squaw freshman Wheeler, who was pulled down the stretch, a change many questioned for the Squaws.
Garza pitched all 8.0 innings and although she gave up 14 hits and walked two, she struck out five.
It was a see-saw battle like many traditional Natalia-Jourdanton battles, which saw the Squaws jump out early in their opening at bat. They used a walk, and a pair of singles to take the early 2-0 lead.
Natalia in turn, responded with a run of their own, as Regina Garza used a base on balls and a pair of stolen bases before scoring on a double by JuJu Morales who had a hot stick Monday afternoon.
The Lady Mustang defense was able to get out of a crunch in the top of the 2nd, as they forced Jourdanton to strand two runners, thanks to a big third out play by Felicia Guzman.
In the bottom of the 2nd, Natalia started the inning with a double by freshman Perez. She later scored, thanks to a pair of ground-outs by Gabby Contreras and Caprice Sanchez to tie the game at 2-2.
Jourdanton responded with a big 3rd inning, as they scored three runs on two outs. This came courtesy of three singles and a very costly error allowing Big Red to jolt back ahead 5-2.
Natalia continued to grind offensively, as they responded in the bottom of the 3rd. Natalia used a R. Garza single, a D. Garza base on balls, a ground out by Figueroa and a fly to right field by Morales to score in two runs bringing the score to 5-4.
In the top of the 4th, Jourdanton added a run thanks to three singles and a fielder’s choice to extend their lead to 6-4.
Natalia had missed opportunities in the bottom of the 4th, as they stranded two runners who both took the base thanks to walks.
In the top of the 5th, J-town added another run, thanks to yet another costly error in the outfield allowing the Squaws to extend their lead to 7-4 versus the Lady Mustangs.
With the never say die mentality, the girls in blue responded. Morales set the tone for the 5th, as she started things off with a single. She was followed in suit as Guzman and Perez produced singles scoring Morales allowing Natalia to close the gap to 7-5.
Jourdanton didn’t allow the closure of the gap to last long, as they scored a run in the top of the 6th thanks to a single and a double.
Natalia had their biggest offensive inning of the game, in the bottom of the 6th resulting in a questionable pitching change by the Squaws that might have worked more into Natalia’s favor.
After watching Jasmine Gomez walk and Regina Garza get on thanks to a walk and a single respectively, the Squaws pulled freshman up and coming talent Wheeler and put in a second pitcher.
Natalia continued the success, as Daniella Garza belted a single to left which scored Gomez in. After watching Figueroa ground out which scored in Garza, the hottest bat in the park returned to the plate. JuJu Morales who led the Lady Mustangs in home-runs last season, belted out her first of the season and maybe the biggest of her career. A two run shot which allowed the Lady Mustangs to take a 9-8 lead on the Squaws going into the 7th.
In the top of the 7th, J-town started the inning with a single which she was tagged out thanks to a nice fielder’s choice play by Guzman to get the lead runner. The batter who got on thanks to a fielder’s choice, was able to advance to 2nd on a costly throw back error on miscommunication between pitcher-catcher and the infield by Natalia. The throw back after a pitch rolled to CF allowing the runner to advance to second base.
Natalia was almost out of the woods, as they forced an F-9 for out #2 in the inning, needing just one more to complete the huge come-back victory.
Unfortunately, the next batter sent a high fly into the outfield that resulted in another error. As a result, one error which led to two proved costly as Jourdanton tied the game 9-9.
In the bottom of the 7th, Natalia’s Contreras started the inning with a single up the middle. She was able to advance on a ground out by Sanchez before watching Gomez fly out.
With two outs and the winning run at 2nd, Garza was able to drop one just over 3rd base in what appeared to be a possible game winning hit. Jourdanton’s left fielder ran with all of her might, dove, rolled twice and made what had to be the biggest grab of her career for a gut wrenching air sucking third out forcing the two squads to go into the 8th inning.
Natalia finished what they started in the 8th, as the defense came through forcing a ground out-6, a ground out-5 and a big K by Garza to prevent a Squaw single from hurting them in the inning.
To start the bottom of the 8th, Natalia’s Garza grounded out before watching Figueroa get on courtesy of a single. Figueroa was advanced two bases, after a huge double by JuJu Morales. Next up, Guzman had her biggest fly-out of her career, sending a deep ball to right field which Figueroa was able to score after tagging up at 3rd base to pick up a huge 10-9 victory.
“To be down the majority of the game and to come back to win shows the heart and desire of these girls,” Crowley said. “We will continue to work on the little things, but to start district with a win versus Jourdanton is huge.”
Natalia and Jourdanton both finished with 14 hits each, but the telling story that didn’t prove to doom the girls in blue was the fact Natalia earned all ten of their runs and Jourdanton only earned five of their runs. Natalia’s defense had six errors in the contest.
At Bat: Garza 1-3-1RBI-2runs scored, Gomez 0-3-1run scored, Guzman 3-5-1RBI, Contreras 1-4-1RBI, Perez 2-3-1run scored, Morales 4-5-3RBIs-2runs scored, Garza 2-4-3runs scored, Sanchez 0-3-1RBI and Figueroa 1-5-2RBIs-1run scored.
Defensive Put-Outs: Figueroa 6, Guzman 5, Perez 4, R. Garza 3, Contreras 2, D. Garza 1, Gomez 1, Morales 1, Sontoya 1.
On Tuesday March 21st the Natalia Lady Mustangs travel to Karnes City to battle the Lady Badgers at 7:00 p.m. as 26-3A play continues.
By Eric Smith