By ARMANDO GARZA
Special to the NEWS
To say that Crystal Castillo is in a zone right now would not do her justice.
She’s in a whole other galaxy.
Castillo was astronomical against Harlingen on Thursday night, striking out 17 batters and not allowing a single hit as the Lady ’Hounds beat Harlingen 4-0 in their 5A bi-district one-game playoff game at Lady ’Hound Field.
After the victory, the girls improved to 25-4 on the season and advance to square off against either Sharyland or Laredo United in the area round.
The junior pitcher struck out the first three batters she faced and that set the tone for a playoff performance rarely seen.
“I was a little nervous in the beginning but I knew I’d get over it,” Castillo said afterward. “After the first batter, the adrenaline takes over and I just took it from there. I was in a zone and just had to stay focused. I knew my team was gonna back me up at all times.”
“Just like the song says, she was on fire,” San Benito coach Elias Martinez said of Castillo. “She was tough and our defense came through. Our bats came through and we were able to break the game open later.”
Castillo was in command the entire time against the Lady Cards. She struck out the first four batters she faced and struck out 10 of the first 13 Harlingen hitters she saw. As the strikeout tally increased, so did the cheers, but the pitcher was in her self-proclaimed “zone.”
“I couldn’t focus on that stuff,” Castillo said of her feat. “I just had to stay in the game and try to get the win.”
The Lady Cards came out and played tough to start the game as Torrie Parra started in the circle and was effective early on. San Benito worked for its first run in the third inning when Stephanie Contreras beat the throw on an infield hit which allowed Amber Jasso to score. Jasso had earlier reached on a fielder’s choice.
It was all Castillo needed as she struck out the side in the fourth and did it again in the fifth.
In the home bottom of the fifth, the Lady ’Hounds broke the game open as Dina Treviño and Jasso each drew walks to lead off the stanza. Later, with two outs, Clarissa Huerta came up and crushed a two-run double to score both and Huerta reached third on the throw home. Huerta eventually scored on a hard-hit single by Alexis Cavazos for the final 4-0 margin.