Sometimes getting off to a fast start in a game can make all the difference.
In its first game in 11 days, the Sedona Red Rock High School baseball team jumped out to a 4-0 first-inning lead in its Central Region opener with Paradise Honors High School, ultimately cruising to a 12-2 run-rule victory in six innings.
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“It’s important when we had a week off, that was one thing I was kind of concerned about ... hitters, especially because that’s been our struggle,” Scorpions head coach Craig Eagle said. “It was great, we put the ball in play against these pitchers and I’m so happy we were able to get that first section win, it’s very important to our points for the grand scheme of it.”
Senior ace Randy Rodriguez got things going in both halves of the first inning. He struck out the first two Panther batters in the top half and knocked a leadoff triple in the bottom.
Sophomore left fielder Seth Farmer walked and stole second before junior catcher Wyatt Ross sent them home with a two-RBI double. Junior center fielder Winston Cox then legged out an inside-the-park home run to double the score, ultimately chasing Paradise Honors freshman starter Hayden King.
In turn, the Panthers got their leadoff man on in the second by drawing a walk to peg a run back in the second.
“It sets the tone,” Eagle said. “Once your leadoff batter gets in, it puts that pressure on that pitcher each time, so the next hitter is going to see some better pitches.”
While Ross caught the first baserunner stealing, the next also walked and eventually scored on a double, but afterward the Paradise Honors offense fell silent.
Scorpions’ leadoff hitters reached base in four of six innings, scoring in all of them.
Facing a new pitcher, Panthers freshman Darren Walker, freshman right fielder Michael Lagorio walked to start the second. Rodriguez walked and Farmer singled, and after Lagorio was picked off at third, both scored; Rodriguez off the bat of Ross and Farmer from junior shortstop Michael Ortega.
Cox singled to start the third and freshman second baseman Cooper Barber was hit by a pitch. Rodriguez rounded the bases and made the score 9-1 after hitting a deep fly ball that bounced over freshman center fielder Jude McLaughlin’s head.
Ortega drove in Farmer to increase the lead to 10-1 before the inning’s end.
The game could have ended a frame sooner. Cox, who had singled and reached third on an error, made it a 10-run game after scoring off of an RBI single by sophomore third baseman Clark Borjon.
But Paradise Honors prolonged the inevitable by four outs. Rodriguez sandwiched a double with two strikeouts, but Panthers freshman right fielder Samuel Nickels batted home his team’s second run.
“It just seems we lost concentration at the end, just got a little lazy,” Farmer said. “But in the end we won, so it’s all good.”
Barber, who represented the game-winning run, got a free base after being hit by a pitch. Lagorio singled and Borjon came through again to drive Barber home.
When the Panthers did put the ball in play, a more consistent Scorpions defense came through. That, plus improved batting and the team reaching the end of a tough out-of-conference schedule, Eagle expects results to improve.
“They’re teams from bigger schools and we held it for portions of the game, and now we’re going to be playing teams from our division and we’re going to make them closer games,” Eagle said.
Rodriguez went the distance to get the win behind two earned runs on five hits with five walks and eight strikeouts.
“I think I’m turning more into baseball shape now, I’m pitching a little bit better, my curveball is coming along now,” Rodriguez said.
Of the Scorpions’ 15 total hits, Ortega and Ross led with three each while Rodriguez had three RBI and three runs scored.