SaberCats’ softball season comes to close in Sweet 16

CORPUS CHRISTI — The Edinburg Vela SaberCats had a steep uphill battle going into Friday’s second playoff game against Austin High in as many days. Vela needed to win two games, but before thinking about a Game 3, it needed to solve Colorado State commit Danielle Serna.

Instead, Austin High used the same script from Thursday night, with fewer runs, to down Edinburg Vela 5-1 in the Class 6A regional semifinals at Cabaniss Field on Friday night.

Serna struck out 14, one more than in Game 1, to send the Maroons into the regional final with a 2-0 sweep of the series.

The SaberCats’ lone run was scored by senior Julia Cordon, who was one of the few batters able to get on base off Serna. She scored after head’s-up base running when Monee Montilla’s single fell between a group of fielders just out of the infield. That made the game 4-1 during the fourth inning.

“Going through the sports, I just learned so many things. Everyone had such a big impact on me,” Cordon, a three-sport athlete, said. “Not just the coaches, but the players. I’ve built so many great bonds with the girls. That’s what keeps me going. Everything we all put into it really changes it, puts the memories in it. That’s what makes it golden.”

She will continue her softball career at the Incarnate Word in San Antonio. She is one of eight Vela seniors who will graduate following back-to-back regional semifinal appearances.

“We weren’t always on the same travel teams, but we always knew each other and we were always good friends. Then we came to Vela freshman year and we were on the same team, we were all the same age. It’s always fun to have those friends that are close by, knowing they’re always there.”

Third-year coach Jon Maples will say goodbye to the class that was just coming into its own when he was a rookie coach at the school.

“When I got here, there were a lot of headaches. A lot of stuff had to be taken care of. Not a lot of people wanted the job at Vela. It came with a lot of baggage,” Maples said. “Fortunately, I got an opportunity to put my footprints on it. I give all the credit to the girls who went through this program.”

Cordon added a running catch that brought the traveling fans to their feet to salute the effort. Catcher Darissa Buenrostro made a similar sell-out catch behind the plate in foul territory to retire a batter.

Vela fell behind early when Austin’s Jayda Lafluer continued her torrid hitting in the series. She recorded her fifth and sixth RBIs of the series on a bases-loaded double. On Thursday, she ended the game with a grand slam.

“She’s a go-getter,” Austin coach Kristen Lozano said. “She’s a sophomore. She’s learned to have more confidence by being more patient. She does have a powerful stick.”

The Maroons added a sacrifice groundout for a 3-0 lead after half an inning. Lexie Aleman drove in the next two runs for the Maroons with, a standup triple in the second and solo home run during the sixth.

Austin advances to its first regional final after winning in its first Sweet 16 appearance.

As for the SaberCats, they will return a big sophomore class that contributed all over the field. Brianna Salinas started Game 1, while Karina Guzman pitched Friday. They return next season as juniors.

“I know this program will be in good hands. Our pitchers, they’re both underclassmen and they hold our team up,” Cordon said. “We need them to play our game. I know next year with the other girls that are being brought up they’ll be able to bond. Hopefully, whatever we’ve taught them they’ll pass on to the underclassmen and they’ll go from there.”