SAN TAN VALLEY — Baseball is a game that has many rituals and superstitions. For believers, the start to Friday night’s matchup between Vista Grande and Poston Butte might have been a good indication of how the game would go.
Right as the game began and the No. 2-ranked Spartans (10-1) were going through their final warmups, first baseman Chuy Santos ran toward the dugout and said that his glove had a hole in it. The senior was tossed his extra glove and then the game began.
Fast forward to the bottom of the third inning, as Poston Butte (15-1) led 1-0. Junior Lopez reached base on a ground ball to right field with one out. Lopez remained at first after Sebastian Serrano hit a grounder to shortstop Emilio Barreras.
The Spartans were one out away from ending the inning, as Ethan Hatch also hit a grounder to Barreras. It seemed like a routine play but somehow the ball squeezed by under Santos’ glove and rolled to the fence.
Lopez never slowed down and scored from second as the nightmare inning began for Vista Grande.
“We run a lot, and we really try to put pressure on people that way and force them into mistakes,” Poston Butte coach Chris Holcombe said. “We take pride in doing all the things that don’t take talent really well, and one of [those] is just effort and getting down the line and running bases. Doing things that don’t necessarily show up stat-wise but force a lot of errors and force a lot of poor throws because we have guys getting down the line as hard as they can, and it forces infields to hurry their throws.”
The Spartans committed three more errors in the inning as the struggles continued for Santos at first base. The third-ranked Broncos scored five runs, which helped propel them to a 9-1 win and hand Vista Grande its first loss of the season.
“I didn’t even think about that but yeah Santos’ glove ripped, but at the end of the day it’s not an excuse, he had a second glove,” Vista Grande assistant coach Victor Olivares said. “We just didn’t make plays, and the good teams capitalize on that. Obviously, you expect to win every game but sometimes an L is good for a team. It puts us in check, it humbles us a little bit, but we just have to learn from it.”
On the mound for Poston Butte was Colton Vercoe who had a no-hitter going into the fifth, but it was broken up by Cesar Protillo’s double with one out.
Jayden Fahnolz came on as a courtesy runner before Jason Rael struck out. Freshman Sebastian Hidrogo hit a hard ground ball to Lopez at short, which scored Fahnolz.
The Spartans managed to load the bases after Erubiel Ozuna singled and Barreras drew a walk.
Poston Butte escaped with minimal damage as Vercoe struck out Bolanos.
“I thought we had some good quality at-bats early on,” Olivares said. “A couple of guys made some really good plays and the second and third time through you kind of get used to the pitcher, but it was just a little too late and we couldn’t capitalize with runners on base.”
The Broncos ace allowed five hits, two walks and struck out nine. Offensively, the senior went 3 for 4 with one RBI.
“It’s been unreal how good he’s been so far this season on the mound, and anytime he’s on the mound our guys have a ton of confidence behind him,” Holcombe said.
Roy Carrasco was a perfect 3 for 3 at the plate with one RBI and Lopez went 2 for 3 with a solo home run in the sixth.
“We’ve been swinging it pretty well,” Holcombe said. “We try to play really good defense and throw a lot of strikes and pitch really well. Any kind of offense we get is a bonus. We try to get four or five runs and when we get eight or nine, that’s a plus. Our identity is pitching and defense, and that’s what we plan to do and what we plan to bring to every game.”
For the Spartans Bolanos was pulled after 2 2/3 innings. The senior allowed six hits and struck out two.
“I thought Bolanos pitched a wonderful game,” Olivares said. “He pitched well enough to win, our defense just didn’t help him out, he had six unearned runs. I thought later in the game, we started to hit well and stuff like that. We have some guys that are really grinding, we just need to put it all together for Monday.”
Hidrogo came on in relief and allowed three runs on seven hits with one walk and one strikeout. He also led the way offensively for Vista Grande as he went 2 for 2 with one RBI.
The Spartans will look to bounce back against the Broncos on Monday at home.
“They’re going to be upset about this game and rightfully so,” Holcombe said. “They’re better than they played today, and we know that, and they know that so they’re going to come out with purpose on Monday, and we have to match their intensity and play really well.”