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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, April 30, 2004

Eagles down Rangers, play for 4-3A title tonight

Staff Writer

Pecos Eagles’ coach Elias Payan knew he was going to be looking at a ‘new’ pitcher on Thursday in the Eagles’ game against the Greenwood Rangers. He didn’t know he was going to be looking at a really new catcher as well.

Eddie Vela got his first start in over a month on Thursday at Greenwood, taking Josh Anchondo’s place in the Eagles’ pitching rotation after the Eagles’ No. 1 pitcher this season became ineligible for the next three weeks. But by the middle of the game, the Eagles were also looking at a new catcher as well, after starter Jaime Muela was thrown out of the game, and backup Chris Garnto was unable to play due to injury.

Miguel Estrada ended up behind the plate, and despite some early problems, the Eagles were able to break a 1-1 tie and jump out to an 11-2 lead, before holding on for a 12-7 win over the Rangers.

That assured Pecos of no worse than a second place finish in district this season. But the game itself had no bearing on tonight’s 7 p.m. game at home against the Presidio Blue Devils, which will decide the District 4-3A baseball title.

Payan pitched Vela, who had lost a non-district game too Greenwood last month, 15-3, while saving No. 2 starter Jose Reyes for tonight’s match-up with Presidio. Reyes and the Eagles won earlier this month in Presidio by a 10-8 final score.

“Hopefully, we’ll have the same results as last time,” Payan said. “Jose’s the kind of kid who wants to be on the mound because he’s competitive.”

Vela struggled at times against Greenwood on Thursday, but was helped out by his defense. “We turned four double plays, and hit the ball probably as good as we’ve hit all season,” Payan said.

“Victor Reyes is on fire at the plate right now. He’s really crushing the ball,” the Eagles’ coach added, while Oscar Parada broke out off a slump with a fourth inning double off Brian Hill, which was followed by another double by Reyes that tied the game.

That came an inning after the Eagles lost Muela trying to tie the game, when he failed to slide at home plate while trying to score on a throwing error by Logan Baucom on a Victor Reyes grounder. That forced Payan to move outfielder Miguel Estrada from right field to catcher and put Luis Licon in the game, but only after Chris Garnto got ready to go behind the plate.

“Chris hurt his shoulder and the doctor said he was out for three weeks. All he could do was hit,” Payan said. “Chris was putting on his catching gear when Junior (Williams) said ‘Coach, he’s hurt,’ so it was a blessing in disguise.”

“We brought in Miguel and he did a good job. I think we’ve found our catcher for next year, while Chris can play other positions on the infield,” he added. “Luis also cam through. He had a big hit with two outs and runners on second and third, he had a two-run single.”

Greenwood coach Joe Williams saved his No. 1 pitcher Adam Banda for tonight’s game in Monahans to decide third place. David Hill would relieve his brother as Pecos scored five times in the fifth inning and five more in the sixth to take a nine-run lead.

The Eagles blew a 9-0 lead at Greenwood last season and lost, and the Rangers would score five runs of their own in the bottom of the sixth to cut the lead to 11-7. But Reyes would single home Parada in the seventh and Vela shut Greenwood down in the bottom of the inning to get his first win of the season.

“He struggled a bit, but he pitched well enough to win,” said Payan. “We still need to work on his off-speed pitches, but he did a good job considering he hasn’t pitched in a while.”

The winner of tonight’s game will advance to the area round of the Class 3A playoffs in two weeks, while the loser between Pecos and Presidio will face Seminole in the bi-district round. Pecos swept Seminole in two games in bi-district a year ago before losing to Lubbock Cooper in the area round.

Eagles beat Cooper in 11th, 4-3A

Staff Writer

From the moment Whitney Burris’ ground ball towards right field hit baserunner Amanda Birum in the top of the third inning, to Jordan Sarter’s throw over the head of Burris at home plate eight innings later, the Pecos Eagles and the Lubbock Cooper Pirates went on an emotional roller coaster of a bi-district playoff game in Andrews on Thursday night. In the end, Sarter’s throw on Brittany Lobstein’s grounder was too high for Burris to try and catch and tag a sliding Cassandra Terrazas at the same time, giving the Eagles their first-ever softball playoff victory, by a 4-3 score in the bottom of the 11th inning.

“We didn’t give up, and that was a team effort,” said coach Tammy Walls, whose team seemed ready to win the game two other times, while being on the brink of elimination by the Pirates on a couple of occasions, none more than in the 10th inning, when it took a two out steal of home by Stephanie Herrera to keep the Eagles alive.

A mental mistake by the Eagles had allowed Cooper’s Lorin Duff to steal home in the top of the 10th inning. Duff had led off the inning with a double down the line in right field, and moved to third one out later when Jordan Harris’ shot back to the mound hit off Herrera’s glove for a single. The Pirates then tried a double steal, and instead of throwing back home, shortstop Vanessa Valeriano put the tag on Harris at second base while being knocked down, allowing Duff to score.

“We had a pickoff play for that. It was just one of those things where we checked out for a moment and they got a run,” Walls said. “The kids get into stressful situations like that and make mistakes, but we were able to overcome that.”

But before the Eagles were able to tie the score in the bottom of the 10th, they appeared to have tied and won the game, only to have an umpire’s call leave them still a run behind and down to their last out.

Duff, who like Herrera went the distance pitching on Thursday, walked Jenny Palomino to open the inning. She was forced at second by Bre’Ann Windham, but Herrera followed with a single that went off the glove of centerfielder Ashley Fuller. Windham was waived home on the error, and she and the ball both arrived at home plate at the same time, with the ball hitting the catcher’s helmet and bouncing over the fence.

That appeared to allow Herrera to score from third with the winning run, but the umpire ruled that Windham had failed to slide with the ball at home plate, and she was called out under the rules and Herrera sent back to third base.

That brought up Savanna Ewing, and when she walked on a 3-1 pitch, Herrera caught the Lubbock Cooper defense napping and was able to steal home - though the Eagles had to wait a couple of seconds before the home plate umpire gave the ‘safe’ call.

“She looked down and said ‘Coach, what do you think?’ I have all the confidence in her, and know she wouldn’t do anything to sacrifice the game,” Walls said. “When you get that late in the game, the other team is not expecting that kind of stuff.”

Herrera then survived a leadoff error by Ewing at third base in the top of the 11th too retire the next three batters, and in the bottom of the inning Terrazas led off with a walk and moved to second on a wild pitch by Duff. Kelsey Flores then advanced her to third and Lobstein hit Duff’s first pitch to deep shortstop, forcing Sarter to hurry her throw home in a failed effort to get Terrazas.

The two grounders allowed Flores and Lobstein to wipe out memories of the ninth inning, when they both struck out after Pecos loaded the bases with one away. Ewing reached when Duff dropped her pop-up, made it to second Sarter and Keri Snyder mishandled Valeriano’s fielder’s choice grounder and then beat the throw to third on Terrazas’ sacrifice bunt.

Overall, the Eagles ended up with just four hits on the night, two by Herrera, while Cooper had seven, including triples by Crystal Herrera and Burris, which along with Duff’s double led to all three of the Pirates’ runs. But Herrera didn’t allow a walk in 11 innings while striking out 20 batters. In contrast, Duff allowed seven walks, capped by the one to Terrazas in the 11th that led to the Eagles’ winning run.

“Steph did a great job pitching. She gave up a few hits, but she didn’t give up and came through when she had to,” said Walls. The win improved the senior’s record to 12-6, though the 11 innings of work figured to have an effect today and Saturday, when Herrera competes in the Region I-3A discus and shot put competitions at the regional meet in Odessa.

Three of Lubbock’s hits off Herrera came in the third inning, but the Pirates failed to break the scoreless tie when Birum was hit by Burris’ ball that was headed for right field, after she and Snyder had singled with one out. Burris was credited for a hit, but Birum was called out and Snyder sent back to third base. Herrera then got Duff to ground to Flores at second base to end the inning.

The first out of the inning had come when Sarter was hit by her own bunt attempt while running towards first base. “Two runners getting hit by batted balls in one inning. You hardly see one in an entire season,” Walls said.

Cooper finally broke through in the sixth when Herrera tripled down the line in right and scored on Snyder’s ground out to second base. At that point Duff had one-hit Pecos, but in the bottom of the inning Birum dropped Herrera’s throw on a Palomino grounder and Windham then blooped a single to center field.

She went to second on the throw home while Palomino stopped at third, from where she scored on Herrera’s sacrifice fly to center field. Ewing then hit a grounder to second that Snyder couldn’t handle for an error, as Windham came in with the go-ahead run.

Three outs from defeat, Lubbock rallied when Burris opened the top of the seventh by tripling over Windham’s head in center. One out later Fuller grounded to second base to score Burris and tie the game. That was the first of eight straight hitters retired by Herrera until Duff’s double to open the ninth, but she would retire Pecos in order in the seventh, while Herrera was caught stealing by Burris after her two-out single in the eighth.

The win was Pecos’ first ever in the playoffs in their first-ever bi-district game. Pecos’ previous losses all had come in the area round after winning the District 2-4A title. They’ll try for their first area round win next Thursday in Andrews, when they face District 2-3A champion Muleshoe in a 7 p.m. game.

The win gave Pecos a 17-11 record on the season, while Cooper, the District 3-3A champ, ends its season at 15-7.

Lub. Cooper 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 -- 3 7 5

Pecos 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 1 1 -- 4 4 2

Duff and Barris. Herrera and Lobstein. W - S. Herrera (12-6). L - Duff (15-7). E - Lubbock, Birum, Snyder, Fulller, Duff, Sarter. Pecos, Hinojos, Ewing. LOB - Lubbock 5, Pecos 10. 2B - Lubbock, Duff. 3B - Lubbock, C. Herrera, Burris. SF - Pecos, S. Herrera. SB - Lubbock, Burris, Duff. Pecos, S. Herrera. CS - Harris (by Lobstein), S. Herrera (by Burris). WP - Duff 2. PB - Burris.

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