Defense helps Eagles survive pitcher’s duel
PLEASE FOLLOW THIS LINK TO THE SOUTHSIDE REPORTER WEBSITE:
Great defensive plays can minimize other sins on the baseball diamond. By definition, a triple play can wipe out a promising inning in the time it takes to sneeze.
For second-place Brackenridge (11-8, 7-2) Tuesday at SAISD Field No. 2, senior pitcher Mario Roldan and the defense behind him atoned for the mistakes made in other categories. Although the Eagles made four errors in the District 28-4A game, but they made enough pickoff plays, force plays and outstanding plays to secure a 2-1 win over pesky Jefferson (5-17, 3-7).
“It’s like the old saying, defense wins games,” first-year Brackenridge coach Mike Garza said. “Our offense was sleeping. We only had three hits. Typically, we average eight or nine a game. Pitching-wise we were able to get outs.”
In fact, both teams had three hits as Brack senior Mario Roldan dueled against Jefferson senior Cesar Carranza. The Mustangs also made defensive stands, turning two inning-ending double plays and getting out of the first inning by eliminating a runner in a rundown.
“We’ve gained a lot of ground from where we were four years ago,” fourth-year Jefferson coach Rey Luna said. “To be honest, I just wanted to be as competitive as we could against them. We’ve struggled in the past to compete with who Brackenridge is and the way they play.
“We wanted to take it one pitch at a time. We wanted to win each pitchand each inning. If we could do that, we knew we had a chance and could keep ourselves in the game.”
The Mustangs impressed the pitcher they faced.
“They played really well,” Roldan said. “They went to the game ready to play baseball.”
Brackenridge scored both of its runs in the first inning, after Roldan picked a runner off first in the top of the inning. Eagles catcher Tristan Cortinas threw out a runner at second base in the next frame.
The Eagles loaded the bases in the first when Brayan Guerrero was safe on an error, Jongregory Gonzales walked and Cortinas deliverd a single. Mario Roldan followed with an RBI single that was misplayed for a two-base error. The error enabled a second run to score.
“It ended up being a 2-1 game,” Roldan said. “I didn’t think it would go that way. I give props to my teammates for making the plays.”
The biggest of them was soon to materialize.
Jefferson’s Weston Redding beat out a slow roller to third for a single. Brackenridge went for the force at second at Dylan Rodriguez’s grounder and both runners were safe. That brought up No. 9 hitter Orlando Rodriguez to bunt.
After the bunt was placed, Roldan saw an opportunity to limit the Mustangs’ scoring opportunities. It worked out better than expected.
“They had runners on first and second, so I was a little bit concerned,” Roldan said. “Then I saw that there was no one on first, so I saw a triple play was possible. It was really great to be able to get out of that inning.”
The Eagles’ triple play, which started with Roldan catching the bunt in the air. He threw to Matt de los Santos at first base, and caught the runner leaning off the bag. De los Santos quickly released a throw to shortstop Bryan Guerrero, who made tag to record the rare feat.
“I’ve never coached a team that turned a triple play before,” Garza said.
Jefferson lost a scoring chance there and left the bases loaded in the fourth, after an error opened the door for a potential big inning.
“Our approach after that was ‘that’s baseball,’ ” Luna said. “We just focused on what we needed to do to stay in the game. We just focused on the next play.”
Carranza set the tone for his teammates, as he often does. He pitched a complete game for Jefferson, giving up just one hit after the first inning.
“He’s our senior,” Luna said. “Cesar has been in the program four years. He’s been in our system the whole time.
“Our team plays better when he’s on the mound. He’s really grown and matured over the years.”
The Mustangs cut Brack’s lead in half in the fifth when a walk to Redding, an error and a bunt from Orlando Rodriguez brought up leadoff hitter Miguel Montoto. Montoto drilled an RBI double, but the potential tying run
was thrown out at the plate on Guerrero’s relay throw from right fielder Alex Hammerli.
Guerrero, who relieved Roldan over the last two innings, struck out the first two Jefferson batters in the seventh. The third reached base on an error, but was tagged out trying to stretch the benefit of the miscue from one base to two.
It seemed a fitting ending for the Eagles, on a day when their bats weren’t producing the number of runs they’re accustomed to.
“Defensively, we were able to execute when we needed to,” Garza said, “and it really helped. It wasn’t pretty, but we were able to get a win. We were able to stop the bleeding.”
At this stage of the season, in wild-and-crazy 28-4A, any kind of win is valuable. All seven teams in the district have a decent chance to make the playoffs.
“We’ve got Lanier and Highlands coming up,” Garza said. “We’ve got to be able to play tough. We’re hoping to win out, like we did in the first half.”
Even with Jefferson losing its third-consecutive game following a big win over Lanier, the loss only dropped the Mustangs into a three-way tie for fifth with Burbank and Edison. Coincidentally, those are the next two teams Jefferson will play.
“We have opportunities we haven’t had in years past,” Luna said. “We’ve been trying to keep the right perspective.
“If we go into this game (Thursday) against Burbank the way we approached the game against Brack, I think we’ll be fine. Now they’ve seen what it’s like to be competitive for a whole game, not just when things are going our way.”