The Eastside Memorial Panther baseball team is headed to the playoffs for the first time in history after clinching the fourth seed in District 27-4A. Check out KEYES Eastside Baseball Spotlight !..
In the final game of the regular season, a 6-1 victory over Gonzales, allowed the Panthers to clinch a postseason spot without having to play a tie-breaker for fourth place on April 25.
“We went out there from the first inning to the last inning and finally played a complete ballgame; from the first pitch to the last pitch we executed,” head coach Michael Eckert, who is in his sixth season with the Panthers, said.
Senior left-handed pitcher Malik Hill recorded his second district win on the mound, both against Gonzales, after tossing six innings, while striking out eight and allowing zero earned runs, while Jonathan Rodriguez pitched one scoreless inning.
“Our pitching was phenomenal; Malik has been our ace throughout the year and he throws strikes, doesn’t give up many walks and makes batters work;” Eckert said. “
His ERA is pretty low in district and throughout the year and has been the most competitive guy on the mound going out there.”
I have been looking forward to this since I was a freshman, so it feels good to be a senior and be in the playoffs,” Hill said. “I was pretty nervous because I didn’t want to mess up, but I got through it by talking to myself, not getting angry and staying positive.”
Hill also had to throw to the back-up catcher, senior Miguel Reyes, who is typically the Panthers starting third baseman.
“We only had 10 guys come with us to Gonzales, but they have overcome adversity all throughout the year,” Eckert said. “Overall they just get out there and compete and this is probably the hardest working group that I’ve had so far with consistency; the seniors they kind of pushed each other along the way”
“I was just trying to do anything to help my team win and I was trying to boost Malik as much as I could to keep him confident and do the job,” Reyes, who only had two starts as a catcher this season, said. “Honestly, I think that was the best game we played all around; everything just clicked.”
Reyes also jumped in to put the Panthers on the board first, with a two-run hit to put Eastside Memorial on top, 2-0, in the third inning.
Senior first baseman Rolando Rodriguez also drove in a run in the victory.
“It feels really good; we have all been dreaming about it and it actually came true,” Rolando Rodriguez said. “We took 10 strong who were ready to win and take us to the playoffs.”
Tonight, the Panthers will take on Boerne in the first of a best two of three game bi-district series at 5 p.m. at Wimberley High School.
“It means a lot; the seniors have known each other all four years and we have all played together and talked about it time after time,” Reyes said. “It is like a dream come true, especially for our coach; he has been hard on us and it all paid off.”
For seniors Hill, Reyes, Rolando Rodriguez, Justin Arzola, Jairo Olvera and Ramiro Cruz, who all started together as freshman, the moment they waited for has finally arrived.
“We learned how to play together throughout the four years; Coach Eckert just did his job by teaching us how to play as a team, be brothers and get the job done,” Hill, who will start for the Panthers tonight, said. “
“We have been friends ever since we started and we all put our heads together and played right and it got us to playoffs,” Rolando Rodriguez said.”We are all excited and just coming ready to play.”