Jourdanton holds on for wild win over Lady Mustangs

Daniella Garza winds up to fire a strike. See more pics in our online gallery!

The #21 state ranked Jourdanton Squaws (23-4-1, 9-1) and the Natalia Lady Mustangs (18-6-2, 9-1) came into April 24th’s Monday night in-district playoff battle as 26-3A Co-District Champions. Both teams were playoff bound and awaiting 25-3A opponents later this week, the only question remained who would enter as the 1st seed in 26-3A and who would represent the district as the 2nd seed.
A season high standing room only crowd filled with plenty of blue and white along with plenty of red packed the bleachers and both fence lines for the battle. This was another classic battle between two teams who through the years, have battled down the wire for district titles on the softball field.
Although the two programs had been separated for the recent past, this rivalry had renewed as this was the third district meeting of the season and the fourth overall this year between the two programs.
“This was a tough fought, well-played game by both teams,” Natalia Head Coach Travis Crowley said. “It was the type of game that was expected between two talented rivals.”
The senior laden Jourdanton squad was led to war by senior Texas A&M Kingsville bound Bailey Longoria who was undefeated in district play thus far. For the first five innings of the battle, she had won the war for the most part, holding Natalia to just two hits.
Defensively for the lady Mustangs, they were led by sophomore up and coming pitcher Daniella Garza who had another good night on the mound. The biggest difference when it was all said and done was crucial errors by the defense and one controversial call at the plate.
“We battled till the last out and when we had our backs against the wall just like we have all year, we did not quit and continued to fight,” Crowley said.
After watching several big plays in the first two innings by both teams’ defenses, Jourdanton broke a scoreless game open in the top of the 3rd.
Jourdanton’s Kris Ramirez sent a single to right field. Unfortunately, the Natalia fielder came up on the ball and the ball would roll to the corner of the field as Ramirez raced around the bases and home to give the Squaws a 1-0 lead. This lead stood until the top of the 6th.
Through five complete innings, Natalia stranded four runners on base and Jourdanton stranded four runners on base.
In the top of the 6th, the Natalia defense went to work as they used a ground out-4 to get the first out of the inning. Jourdanton’s Rachel Schnelle then singled to left field to put a runner on with one out.
Jourdanton then used back-to-back fielder’s choice put into play by Cladi Munoz and Lexi Wheeler to give the squaws a 2-0 lead versus the Lady Mustangs.
The controversy then began, with a nice single up the middle to Natalia’s CF JuJu Morales courtesy of Longoria. Jourdanton attempted to send Wheeler home, as Morales fired a rocket to freshman catcher Biviana Figueroa. Figueroa set up on home plate awaiting the throw which was near perfect. She got the ball, tagged the runner a few feet from home plate as the Natalia crowd went wild thinking it was out #3. The home plate umpire called interference on Figueroa claiming she had blocked the bag prior to the balls arrival which resulted in a debate at home plate. Unfortunately, the call did not go Natalia’s way and one single later Jourdanton scored two runs and the Squaws had taken a 4-0 lead.
In the opening inning, there was a similar play that took place where Figueroa made a great play further down the 3rd base line. Although the umpire did not rule interference, the Jourdanton coach complained. Unfortunately, in the 7th when it counted most, the third out didn’t go Natalia’s way.
Never say die, the Lady mustangs stormed back. Natalia started the inning with a single by Regina Garza which was followed up with a triple by Figueroa. After watching Natalia’s clean-up batter go down on a strike out, Natalia used a single by Felicia Guzman to give Natalia their second run of the game.
The sixth batter on the line-up for Natalia was then victim to K #5 of the game by Longoria. With two outs, Natalia was not done yet as singles by Bryanna Perez and Gabby Contreras got the lady Mustangs within one run as Guzman scored the third run of the game. Unfortunately, Natalia would strand two runners on base as the sixth inning ended with J-town in the lead 4-3.
In the top of the 7th, Jourdanton led off with a single before Natalia could get three straight outs to end any threat of the squaws scoring an additional run.
Things did not start off well in the bottom of the 7th, as Natalia had a strike-out and a fly out for two quick outs.
Figueroa gave the girls in blue hope with a single to right field, but unfortunately Natalia’s clean-up batter grounded out as the Squaws held on for a 4-3 win over Natalia to take 1st seed in 26-3A.
“I could not be more proud of our girls and how they battled,” Crowley said. ‘This was definitely a great test and a playoff atmosphere for our young team.”
The Jourdanton Squaws finished the game with a 9-8 edge offensively as Natalia’s defense had two errors compared to one by J-Town.
Garza finished the 7.0 innings allowing nine hits, one walk with seven Ks.
At Bat: D. Garza 0-4, Guzman 1-3-1RBI, Contreras 1-2-1RBI, Perez 2-3, Morales 0-4, R. Garza 2-4, Sanchez 0-2, Figueroa 2-4-1RBI and Sontoya 0-3.
Defensive Put-Outs: Figueroa 8, Perez 4, R. Garza 2, Morales 2, Garza 2, Guzman 1.
By Eric Smith
Staff Writer