EDINBURG — The old adage goes, “It’s not how you start, but how you finish.”
That applied to UTRGV baseball team this weekend as the Vaqueros dropped the series opener against South Dakota State on Friday before winning the next three games. UTRGV capped it off Sunday’s series finale with an 8-7 victory, using a four-run eighth inning to pull off the comeback win against the Jackrabbits.
Trailing 6-1 with two outs during the bottom of the fourth, UTRGV remained patient and drew four consecutive walks, bringing in one run. Designated hitter Conrado Diaz then stepped up to the plate and delivered a two-run single to bring UTRGV within striking distance at 6-4.
“We fought. They made some mistakes, but we capitalized and we had some big hits in big moments,” UTRGV head coach Derek Matlock said. “When you’re going to win championships, you have to have hits in big moments, hits with two outs. You have to have somebody do something; they’re not always going to give it to you on the mound. We had some big hits from some great players, and that was fun to see because we haven’t been seeing that.”
Then, down 7-4 during the bottom of the eighth, the Vaqueros put together a four-run inning sparked by a Jacob Hirsh double to left field. Diaz drove in another run, a runner scored on a wild pitch, then Freddy Rojas Jr. drilled a single hard into right field to tie the game at 7. A second wild pitch during the inning from the Jackrabbits allowed Rojas to cross the plate for the game-winning run.
“We were just competing. Coach (Matlock) had been talking about competing all week long, and that’s what we did that last inning — we competed. We didn’t give up and we were able to separate balls from strikes,” Rojas Jr. said.
Diaz finished 2-for-3 with two RBIs. He credited UTRGV’s bullpen for holding South Dakota State down, which allowed UTRGV’s bats to finish the job.
“I think our offense did a really good job, and our relievers, too. They kept us in the game, and we did our job at the end,” Diaz said.
Edinburg High alum John Henry Gonzalez (1-1) was rewarded the win after pitching the eighth inning, striking out two batters. Tyler Kisner, Deryk Serbantez, Chase Bridges, and Ricky Gerik Jr. each stepped in to hold SDSU scoreless, with Gerik earning the save after a perfect ninth. UTRGV is now 6-7 overall.
“That’s who we need to be. We dropped the first game against a great arm and our guy pitches great, and it’s not a good feeling when you do that,” Matlock said. “And to come back and win a double and win today, that shows a bit of character with our guys. Winning three out of four, winning the series, anytime you can do that against anybody, you’re happy with it.”
UTRGV will have four days off before returning to the field to host New Jersey Institute of Technology for a four-game series Friday through Sunday, with a double-header Saturday. First pitch against NJIT is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday.