MISSION — The biggest baseball game in Rio Grande Valley high school history is one day away, and the hype surrounding the matchup between Sharyland High and Sharyland Pioneer, two rival schools from the same district, is bursting at the seams.
While playing on a team’s home field can provide an added advantage, that was out of the question for this one with an anticipated crowd of thousands on hand to witness two of the Valley’s best go at it with a shot at the state tournament on the line.
The Diamondbacks (35-9) and Rattlers (34-6) will find themselves playing in front of the largest audience either team has ever seen as UTRGV Baseball Stadium prepares to host the Class 5A Region IV Final.
Sharyland Pioneer coach Casey Smith said the Diamondbacks and Rattlers wanted to play a home and home series against Sharyland High, but neither high school would be able to fit the number of people expected for the blockbuster baseball game.
“One of the things we wanted to do was go home and home. We wanted to play them at Sharyland, but considering just the sheer volume of people that are probably going to be there, we felt it was best that we showcase RGV baseball and make it available to as many people as possible,” Smith said. “We’re expecting a huge number out there and that’s going to be a lot of fun for these kids.”
Sharyland High junior second baseman Randy Garcia said the Rattlers are confident and prepared to put on a show for RGV baseball fans.
“We’re all excited for this week — it’s the biggest week of the year. We’re just working hard the whole week to be ready for anything,” Garcia said.
With the best-of-three series set to begin Thursday, Smith jokingly admitted he might have to rein in his group as they’re eager and ready to go at it once more against their sister school.
“We’re going to have to keep them in the corral for a while,” Smith said. “I think they’re ready to go right now if we told them to, and I’m sure Sharyland’s the same way. I’m sure everybody’s excited and we’re all looking forward to it.”
The matchup is about as even as can be as the Rattlers and Diamondbacks split their season series 1-1, each winning in walk-off fashion.
Diamondbacks senior shortstop Jacob Rosales said with a trip to the state tournament at stake, a place no Valley team has reached in 12 years, there’s a buzz around this series.
“It’s an exciting feeling because it’s two Valley teams playing to go to state. The word ‘state’ is mentioned and the Valley’s eyes glow,” Rosales said. “It’s an exciting feeling, especially being from the same district. Sharyland, Sharyland Pioneer is just something that people are going to look forward to and people are excited about,” Rosales said.
Sharyland High coach Barton Bickerton, whose Rattlers reached the regional final once before in 2003, said he had to turn his phone off on Monday as it was ringing off the hook with congratulations and requests. He’s telling his group it’s still the game of baseball.
“We just talked to the kids about the hype — don’t play into it, it’s just another game. It’s the same team we played during district and everything else, nothing different. Baseball is baseball once you step on that field and throw that first pitch. It’s great for the community and I hope both sides are cheering for whoever wins this thing,” Bickerton said.
Starting today, community members hoping to see the Diamondbacks and Rattlers duel on the diamond in the 5A Region IV Final can get their hands on the hottest ticket in town.
All adult tickets, presale or at the gate, are $8. Presale tickets can be purchased from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday in room 1.416 of the UTRGV International Trade and Technology Building located on the UTRGV Edinburg Campus. Game day tickets will be sold at the gate beginning at 5:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 11 a.m. Saturday for Game 3, if necessary. Phone numbers for ticket sales are (956) 665-3415 or (956) 665-3747.
Sharyland High and Sharyland Pioneer students can purchase tickets at their respective high schools beginning Wednesday and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Student tickets are $4.00 each, however, no student tickets will be sold at the gate. Tickets purchased at the gate will cost $8.00. No 31-5A district passes will be accepted for the Region IV Final series.
Gates will open one hour before the scheduled first pitch.
Game 1 is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, with Game 2 slated for 7 p.m. Friday. Game 3, if necessary, will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday. All games will be played at UTRGV Baseball Stadium in Edinburg.