At Rincon High last Friday, the Rangers’ Andrew Petty struck out 14 batters. He was throwing so hard that radar guns had him touching 90 miles an hour in the first inning.
Catcher Brandon Hyatt was the only Mountain Lion not to fan against him.
But the Mountain View Mountain Lions (5-1) proved that Petty was not unhittable, as they reached him for nine hits and four earned runs en route to a 5-1 win over Rincon.
“I used a two-strike approach,” Hyatt said, as he had an RBI single and two walks. “I think we’ll see better pitchers.”
The Rangers scored first on a bunt single by Josh Smutzer, and an RBI double by Felix Gonzalez for a 1-0 first inning lead. That would stand up as Rincon’s only run of the day.
Mountain View’s Austin Moore didn’t throw as hard as Petty, but he was more effective. In seven innings, he gave up eight hits, four walks, one run, and struck out eight.
“There was good pitching on both sides,” said Mountain View coach Erik Sabel. “The team making the least number of mistakes was going to win.”
Doubles by Ruben Lerma and Josh McKinney tied it in the second for Mountain View.
The turning point may have occurred in the Rincon second. Shortstop Austin Cooper made a great diving grab to his left to spear a ball for the second out. But a double by Petty and consecutive walks loaded the bases. Moore was up to the challenge and retired Gonzalez on a ground out to end the threat.
The third inning offered another opportunity for Rincon, but they stranded a runner on third base. On an afternoon when the wind was blowing fiercely, a fly ball was dropped for a one-base error. With two outs and two runners on, Moore retired the next two batters.
“Our defense and Austin on the mound made the difference,” Sabel said.
“Austin (Moore) kept them off balance,” Hyatt said. “He was throwing strikes.”
Moore pitched well under pressure.
“I tried to keep the ball low,” Moore said. “My breaking ball was working well.”
The Mountain Lions took the lead in the fourth inning. McKinney opened with a single. Hyatt walked. Devon McPeek hit the ball into the windy sky where his drive was dropped for an error, and McKinney scored. Cecil Fuentes walked to load the bases, but Petty ended the inning with a couple of strikeouts.
Rincon almost tied it in their half of the fourth. Petty singled. After a hit by pitch, Zach Smutzer hit a two-out single. Petty tried to come into score, but when he flew in the air at home plate, Hyatt tagged him and held onto the ball for the third out.
The Mountain Lions made it 3-1 in the fifth, as Hyatt singled home Graham Spraker with two outs.
Both pitchers struck out the side in the sixth inning.
But in the seventh, the Mountain Lions made sure that Petty would not finish the game. Moore hit a one-out single. After a passed ball advanced him to second, Lerma singled him home to make it 4-1. The Mountain Lions finished the scoring when Jerry Teague hit a bases-loaded single to bring home Lerma.
“We battled with two strikes,” Moore said.
The Mountain Lions had several two-strike hits.
“We like to grind out our at-bats and we work hard in practice,” Sabel said.
Lerna and McKinney each had two hits for the Mountain Lions, while McKinney and Hyatt each reached base three times.
Not only did Petty finished with 14 strikeouts against only two walks for Rincon, but he also banged out two hits.
The Mountain Lions are hoping their 5-1 start is a harbinger of things to come. In his first year as Mountain Lions head coach, Sabel may be the perfect fit for this squad. He certainly gives the baseball program some pedigree, as he pitched relief for the World Champion Diamondbacks in 2001. He served as a pitching coach with the Diamondbacks in their system for six years.