BY CLAIRE CRUZ
MERCEDES — The La Villa Cardinals were facing a team well-versed with success in the Knights of Columbus Tournament championship game here Saturday evening.
La Villa lost to the Falfurrias Jerseys 11-1 in six innings, clinching another title in Mercedes for the Jerseys. La Villa’s pitchers struggled with control and Falfurrias junior pitcher Marc Cantu threw plenty of strikes, which proved to be a difference in the game.
“We’ve been really consistent defensively, and our pitching has been solid throughout the season so far,” Falfurrias coach David Salinas said. “Our bats are starting to come around, especially the bottom part of the order, so we got what we wanted out of the tournament.”
Cardinals pitchers Nickolas Mata, a junior, and Jayden Silguero, a sophomore, issued nine free bases behind four walks, four hit batters and one balk. Mata was on the mound for the first three innings and allowed four runs on four hits, striking out five.
During the bottom of the second, Falfurrias senior catcher Brad Aynsley blasted a three-run home run over the left-field wall. He recorded three hits in the game and reached all four times at the plate with help from a hit by pitch. Aynsley, an all-state talent, finished with a game-high four RBIs.
“People know who Brad is, so he’s not getting many good pitches to hit. But when they make a mistake, you saw today what happens. He’s a quality player,” Salinas said.
Falfurrias sophomore Patrick Nunez and La Villa sophomore Jacob Garza also notched multiple hits in the contest. Nunez hit a double in the first and a bunt single in the sixth, and drove in one run.
Garza roped two hard singles up the middle in the fourth and sixth and drove in the only Cardinals run of the game. Senior Nate Sanchez, sophomore Rene Reyna and juniors Adam Ramirez and Christopher Rivera also recorded hits.
“Jacob’s been playing like that all year. He’s batting around .600 or something like that. He’s one of our best hitters right now, and I’m very pleased by what he’s doing,” La Villa coach Juan Guajardo said.
Cantu allowed six hits, all singles, and struck out seven with just one walk. He had big shoes to fill as Aynsley tossed a no-hitter in Falfurrias’ game against Brownsville St. Joseph on Friday night, and though he didn’t get to that level of success, Salinas was happy with the outing.
Ramirez entered in relief for La Villa in the bottom of the sixth and allowed back-to-back doubles to the first batters he faced before issuing two walks and a single that helped the Jerseys score five runs in the frame and earn the run-rule victory.
La Villa’s best defensive play came during the final frame, as Rivera launched a bullet from center field to home plate to throw out a runner heading for home. Falfurrias was aggressive on the base paths in the sixth as it tried to score the runs necessary to end the game early. A wild pitch ultimately scored a runner for the final run of the game.
Though his team came up short, Guajardo thinks reaching the championship game was a step in the right direction for his squad.
“I think we just ran out of pitching, and we didn’t come through with the base hits when we had chances,” Guajardo said. “I think we just need more practice, but we’ll get there, God willing.”