Story and Photos by Christian Romo
Having already blown one, three-run lead earlier in the game, the Aztec bats ensured they weren’t going to blow another lead on Wednesday afternoon in Duarte.
Scoring five runs in the fifth inning, the visiting Azusa Aztecs (6-8, 2-7 Montview) beat the Duarte Falcons (7-9, 4-5 Montview) 11-7. Consistent pitching, tight defense, and opportunistic base running brought the Aztecs out of last place in the Montview League with their second win against the Falcons.
“It’s the best game we’ve played all year,” said Azusa coach Mark Rigney.
Azusa lefties Adrian Samaniego and Rob Hernandez held off Duarte’s powerful offense. The starter, Samaniego, gave up five runs through three innings, and the closer, Hernandez, allowed three runs in four innings. “[Hernandez] did a phenomenal job,” said Rigney, “he throws two pitches: slow, and slower, and he had [Duarte] fooled.”
The loss snaps Duarte’s three-game winning streak in which they scored a combined 41 runs, including 12 against Azusa on Monday. Falcon’s pitcher Josue Lopez struck out six in three and two-thirds innings in relief, fooling the Aztec hitters with sweeping curveballs. However, he gave up five runs on four hits in a deciding fifth inning.
“He’s obviously our best pitcher,” said Falcon’s coach Ryan Marcos, “and it’s rough when your best goes out there and we lose.”
Although Duarte put up seven runs on 11 hits, four errors and a balk gave Azusa five free runs despite managing only seven hits in the game. “We dropped the ball in the beginning, but [Azusa] played really good defense and hit the ball really well,” said Marcos. The Aztecs, who recorded ten errors against Duarte on Monday, minimized it to two errors on Wednesday and took advantage of every Duarte mistake. “Whenever we had a runner on third, we never left him there, so that’s a plus,” said Rigney.
The Falcons, who are looking for their first playoff appearance since 2013, dropped to fourth place with league leaders Nogales and Sierra Vista still left on the schedule. The fifth-place Aztecs hope a late surge can get them into the playoffs for the fourth straight season. Duarte hosts Mountain View in a non-league game Saturday morning, while the Aztecs continue league play and travel to Gladstone next Wednesday.