Rio Sports Live

Bishop, Santa Gertrudis battle for Region IV championship

By MARK MOLINA | Rio Sports Live

   When district play kicked off, many looked at Bishop and Santa Gertrudis as the top contenders for the 30-3A crown, as well as Region IV favorites.

   Fast forward nearly three months and it is no surprise that the two will clash for the Region IV-3A title and a state berth, setting the stage for a highly anticipated series between rivals separated by just six miles.

   “This is definitely a special matchup; we’ve proven to be the top two teams in our region,” said Santa Gertrudis head coach Thomas De Los Santos. “That says a lot about our district and I believe we do have one of the toughest districts in not only 3A Region IV, but in the state. We’re definitely looking forward to it and it’s going to be a great series — we’re two of the eight teams left in the state.”

   The series will be played entirely at Cabaniss Field in Corpus Christi, starting with Game 1 tonight at 7 p.m., with Game 2 to follow the same time Friday night and, if necessary, Game 3 on Saturday at 5 p.m.

   Game 1 will mark the third matchup between the two schools, with Bishop taking both meetings in district play. The Lady Badgers won the first meeting at home 3-2 in a ninth-inning walk off back on March 16, then dismissed the Lady Lions 5-3 in the rematch on April 13. 

   Both squads are coming into the series riding a wave of emotions, starting with the Lady Badgers, who not only secured their first district title since 2011, but advanced past the regional semifinals for the first time in the program’s history.

   “(This run) has meant a lot for the girls because we have gone past Round 4, which Bishop has never done before,” junior pitcher Andrea Martinez said. “The girls have worked very hard to accomplish what we have this past season. Compared to last year, where we weren’t really connected as a team as we are right now. Without having a season last year, we were able to improve on what we needed to improve on, put it all together and became a great team.”   

   While it’s a first for Bishop, head coach Tito Moreno and his squad are far from the mentality that they are playing with house money.

   “Well, it feels great, as far as getting to the regional finals and making school history with our softball program,” he said. “With that being said, we’re not satisfied yet. We still have a couple of goals in mind. I told the girls to enjoy it, but don’t be satisfied. Overall, we’re excited to be here.”

  Fortunately for Moreno, his team doesn’t intend on resting on its laurels as the mentality around the Lady Badgers program has been to take it all in even at its toughest points, much like the entire season.

   “This week has been very important and the girls have been embracing the grind as coach says,” senior catcher Kieara Cruz said. “I think we will work hard to compete in this series and win it. Our first two games (with SGA) were really tough, but our girls went into it calmly. If we go into the same way we did in district play, I believe we will do well and we will win.”

   Down the road, the Lady Lions are trying to win the region for the fifth time in nine years with one of those runs leading to a state title back in 2018. 

   Another one of those runs to state was back in 2016, the last time the Lady Lions went into the postseason without a district title. While they would advance out of the region in those playoffs and are on the doorstep to attempt it again, some of the players can’t help but use the first two losses to Bishop as added motivation.

   “So, personally, (Bishop) took something from us,” SGA junior catcher Kayla Ramirez said. “They took the district title from us and we want to be able to take that back. We want to regain what was taken from us and we want redemption heading into the state tournament. We’re excited and ready to play. We’ve been working hard throughout this week. We’ve had long practices and have just worked very hard.”

   Senior center fielder Alana Benitez echoed the sentiment and stressed that it is all about looking forward, not back.

   With 44 days gone by the time first pitch for Game 1 is thrown Thursday night, the Lady Lions are feeling confident that things can be different.

   “I guess you can say those games before didn’t matter,” she said. “We’re ready for this series since it’s an actual playoff atmosphere for a shot at state. We really have changed a lot over the last few weeks. We’ve improved and have really gotten to know each other during this run since dealing with COVID has messed a lot of that up. We have also practiced different things to get ready for this game. ”

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