On Friday, May 18 Texas A&M Kingsville will be transformed into a magical kingdom for the arrival of twin Cinderellas. Most may wonder at my choice of the descriptor but it will become apparent as our story unfolds.
The Warren Lady Warriors and the Edinburg Vela Lady Sabercats will waltz onto the diamond hoping to grab their ticket to the Royal banquet to be held in Austin, Texas. For both of these teams it will be the first appearance in the regional semifinal round. When comparing both belles of the ball it is almost a mirror appearance. So, let the music begin and watch as the belles make their entrance.
Before the 2018 season, the Lady Warriors had never won a playoff game. They had only appeared in the playoffs once in school history. 2018, a freshman class, a young pitcher, and a dedicated coach combined to create Cinderella and her dance routine through the playoffs.
The first dance happened at North East Softball fields with Smithson Valley. The Lady Rangers, a team with deep playoff experience, fell behind with two left feet as the Lady Warriors completed their foxtrot around the bags and home plate. A team steeped in history watched as the clock struck midnight but unlike the fairy tale, Cinderella did not return to her rags but instead the Lady Rangers became pumpkins.
Cassie Davis, Junior left fielder, attended the ball as the Fairy Godmother and with exceptional catch and rocket throw helped create a double play to turn the base runners into stones and struck the final exit for the Lady Rangers.
Cinderella continued to travel to exotic venues to perfect her skills. Her next dance partner, the Lady Cavilers from Lake Travis.
Lake Travis, a team known for skills and domination, expected to stop the music and jive by kicking Cinderella from the ball. However, the Lady Warriors smashed their record, replace the ballroom music with their own tunes. Anika Litterio spun the ball across home plate for 13 strikeouts for the game. Dynasty Harpel, Bri Arredondo, Austin Germain, and others combined for stellar hits starting in the fourth inning to commandeer the dance floor and squash their dance partner.
Guarding the palace gate—standing in the way of the dance- the Lady Panthers from O’Connor. Cinderella danced with O’Connor twice before the third round of the playoffs. Twice in district play. Cinderella and the Lady Panthers spent time before the season as teammates on different select teams. Some of the Lady Warriors and Lady Panthers won a World Series together. Members of both teams spend time together on and off the diamond.
Last Saturday, Cinderella had to dance off against her best friend. Cinderella accomplished history before the fateful day. One day earlier, Cinderella had won the first dance off. Now to continue to dance, they must successfully complete their second routine against their sisters—their friends.
As the bats conducted the chorus, Cinderella started the Salsa. Litterio and company continued to play defense, and Bri Arredondo sparked the offense. Although the Lady Panthers danced the Salsa well, their feet became entangled with each other and the dance for the Lady Panthers ended. Cinderella earned the right to dance at Kingsville.
2017 the Lady Sabercats changed classification from 5A to 6A and experienced growing pains. The Lady Sabercats failed to return to the dance floor in 2017.
2018 became an enchanted season. The Lady Sabercats jitterbugged through district play to end the district season in second place.
Their first dance partner in the playoffs, Westlaco, entered the dance floor with swagger and a long pedigree. The Sabercats focused on footwork and rhythm as they stole the series from the Lady Panthers 2 to 1. It would be the last 2 to 1 series for the Lady Sabercats.
The Lady Sabercats stole two dances away from their second partner, Laredo Nixon.
In a single set, the Lady Sabercats, outstepped Harlingen South to earn their ticket into the ball at Kingsville.
For the dry facts comparison between the two Cinderellas.
Pitching. Warren has one starting pitcher. As Coach Morales has stated, “Our pitcher is Anika Litterio.” Litterio (Fr) has racked up a 24-5 win/loss record and a 1.54 ERA. Litterio has pitched 231 strikeouts and walked 41.
The Lady Sabercats have one leading pitcher—Naomi Reyes (Sr). Reyes has a 20-2 win/loss record and a 1.28 ERA. Standing in the circle, Reyes has hurled 253 strikeouts and walked 26.
However, in the bullpen is Gabrirella Martinez (Jr.) with a 3-0 win/loss record and a 1.95 ERA. Martinez pitched 7 strikeouts and walked 8.
Austin Germain’s evolution into one of the leading hitters for the Lady Warriors includes 27 runs scored, 41 hits, and 16 RBI’s. The first four in the typical batting line up for the Lady Warriors have a batting average above .350. This includes Dynasty Harpel, Lauren Garcia, and Bri Arredondo.
The Lady Sabercats leadoff batter is Gabriela Villarreal. Villarreal told Nate Kotisso, Staff Writer for RGV Sports, ““My mentality has been: you’re the first batter, and you have to start the momentum going for your team,” Villarreal said. “If you get on, you can start a rally and get things going.”
Edinburg Vela coach Jon Maples shared with Kotisso, ““She’s very patient at the plate,” Maples said. “She averages around eight to nine pitches every at bat. She goes up there, and she’s not really looking for the first pitch to hit. Gabby is seeing different pitches than an opposing pitcher is throwing, and she works the count, and that really benefits our team.”
In the win against Harlingen South Vllarreal hit her second homerun for the season. Maples shared with Kotisso, “Gabby showed off her power,” Maples said. “If you throw her an outside pitch, she can drive it. That wasn’t one of those things where the wind carried it. That was straight power. She’s only a junior, but that’s a heck of a power hitter that we’re fortunate to have at the top of our lineup.”
Villarreal from the box has scored 31 runs, 33 hits, and 22 RBIs.
Fellow Junior, Taylor Chavez owns a .396 batting average with 38 runs, 42 hits, and 43 RBI’s during her 124 plate appearances.
The Lady Sabercats are an older upperclassman team. They have 4 seniors, 10 juniors, and 2 sophomores on the team.
The Lady Warriors only have one senior on the team, Bri Arredondo and team members are mostly freshman and sophomores.
So, on Friday evening at 7pm, the Cinderella Ball will begin. Cinderella and her younger sister Cinderella (Warren) will start the ball with a Rumba. The dance will continue Saturday at high noon with a Western dance showdown. In the event the two Cinderellas split the series the final tango will begin 30 minutes after the Western Swing.
The last team standing on the dance floor Saturday evening will win a invitation to the regional finals and will be one dance away from the Royal Banquet to be held in Austin.
If you cannot attend the Cinderella Ball in person, you may listen to Saturday’s dance numbers live on our Mixlr station—http://mixlr.com/theechovoice.
Images and video clips will be posted live during the dance on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/echosportzone.