Senior lefty Zach Perez blanks Rockets
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The early season has been a baptism of fire for a sizable chunk of Harlandale’s roster, but the Indians’ youngsters seem to be getting the hang of varsity competition.
Harlandale (5-8, 1-2) has five freshmen and four sophomores who’ve been initiated into varsity play during the young season. Several of them made contributions last Thursday afternoon as Indians senior Zach Perez shut out Kennedy (5-7, 1-2) 5-0 at the Frank Tejeda Complex.
The Harlandale youngsters did the job offensively and defensively in support of the veteran left-hander, who limited the Rockets to six hits.
“They’re doing it all,” Harlandale coach Eric Forestier said of the underclassmen. “We had seniors on the mound, at first base and in right field. The rest are young.”
The Indians, who lost a heartbreaker in Floresville 4-3 Wednesday evening, only had four hits but made good use of them.
Freshman Robert Palomino singled and scored Harlandale’s first run in the bottom of the first inning. Sophomore Ramzey Martinez drew a walk and senior Brandon Ramon, in his fourth varsity season, reached base on an error behind him. Palomino scored on the error.
The Indians added to their total in the second with aggressive baserunning when Nathan Reyes was safe on a fielder’s choice and scored on an RBI single from freshman leadoff hitter Timothy Smith.
“We do put a lot of pressure on teams,” Forestier said. “I was glad we were able to bounce back, especially coming off a 4-3 loss to Floresville last night.
“We put the ball in play. Zach pitched well, and we executed today. That was the difference between today and last night.”
Trailing 2-0 after two innings, Kennedy already had squandered two of its three scoring opportunities.
Rockets Damon Lopez and Miguel Zamarripa were the game’s first two batters to the plate, and each delivered a single. They got no further than first place, as Perez picked off both of them in succession.
“That’s one of the few chances you get every now and then,” he said of the rare back-to-back pickoffs. “I saw the runners were way out, so I threw it, hoping to get them. They try to put the ball in play, and they hit really well. We made some good plays.”
Kennedy junior Isaiah Garcia led off the second with an infield single and advanced on Blade Alvarado’s sacrifice bunt. Garcia reached third on Jerry Raygoza’s grounder, but stalled there as Perez ended the threat with a strikeout.
“We made errors and we didn’t hit the ball,” Kennedy coach Erick Montes lamented. “And when we did get guys on base, they got picked (off). We worked on that yesterday. Our plan was to get a big lead but, as soon as they saw (Perez) pick up his feet, they were supposed to get back.
“Sometimes we look really good. And then, sometimes, we look like we’ve never played the game before. To have those two guys thrown out right away really hurt us.”
Harlandale batted around in the fourth and sent three runs across the plate.
Smith produced his second RBI single after Reyes reached base on an error. Another error put Christian Slocume on base, then Palomino was hit by a pitch.
A bases-loaded squeeze bunt by Martinez gave Harlandale a 4-0 cushion. Brandon Ramon singled, ach Perez drew his third walk of the game and freshman shortstop Joey Castaneda also walked. Eight consecutive Harlandale batters reached base.
“It feels good that I was able to get on base,” Perez said. “I helped myself out, too.”
The Indians scored their last run on an error. Despite its youth, Harlandale committed no errors.
“I think they got down on themselves because of the errors,” Montes said. “I think Harlandale only had one earned run. We’ve just been making too many errors, but all we do is work on defense and take batting practice.
“They played better than we did. The better team won today.”
Kennedy manufactured its best offensive opportunity in the fifth. Alvarado drew a leadoff walk and Raygoza followed with a double, sending the Rockets’ catcher to third base. However, Perez retired the next three batters in order to strand both runners in scoring position.
The Rockets produced a big win of their own six days earlier, defeating Uvalde 4-3 in eight innings.
“That was a big win,” Montes said. “The kids played well. They hit the ball and put the ball in play. We were up 4-0 and they made a comeback. We had a pop fly drop that would have been the third out.”
Perez knows he, Ramon and right fielder Alec Mendez have to set an example if Harlandale is to make up ground in the 29-4A race and qualify for the playoffs this year.
“I’ve got to be a team leader,” Perez said. “We have a lot of young freshman who are not used to high school ball. I’ve got to communicate and get them used to it.”