Raiders baseball struggles on opening day of Anaheim Lions Tournament
by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal
In an 11-inning contest, the Sonora baseball team couldn’t connect with runners in scoring position and Kelso High of Washington struggled to get baserunners as the teams ended in a scoreless tie at Sonora, Saturday afternoon in the first game of the Anaheim Lions Tournament for both teams.
Sonora’s Gabe Armstrong and Kelso’s Tyler Parsons locked into a pitcher’s duel, both working eight innings before giving way to the bullpen.
The game featured stellar defense from both sides, including a diving catch by Sonora’s Justin Mellano in the top of the fourth inning and a 5-4-3 inning-ending double play by Kelso to end the 11th inning.
“Pitching was phenomenal, you couldn’t ask for a better job out of those two,” said Pat Tellers, Sonora head coach. “It all comes down to playing behind them and I thought we did a good job. We made a few changes for this game that worked out and Mellano made some nice plays in the outfield. But there’s the other part of the game too, which is execution at the plate and we failed to do that.”
Armstrong, who already has a no-hitter this season, continued a strong start to his junior season by throwing eight shutout innings, allowing just two hits while striking out nine batters and walking none.
In a stretch from the first inning to the seventh inning, the junior right-hander retired 18 batters in a row.
Almost equally as strong was the Hilanders’ left-handed starter Parsons, who also threw eight innings, allowing five hits while striking out six batters and walking none.
But despite his strong performance, the Raiders found three key chances to get on the board.
In the fourth inning, Jake Rosander hit a two-out double to deep right field, but Mellano lined out to right field to end the threat.
Mellano then found himself on third base twice, in the seventh and 10th innings, but Henry Bustamante flied out to end the seventh inning and Evan Sonny popped out to shortstop Hayden Gillen to end the 10th inning.
“We’re still being stubborn at the plate, we aren’t executing and it’s been a bunch of little failures at the plate,” Tellers said. “It’s something we have to change mentally and physically. It’s really effecting us when we have the opportunity to get guys in and others aren’t doing their job.”
Steve Christen pitched the final three innings for the Hilanders (1-1-1), pitching out of trouble in two of those innings.
Kelso had just two baserunners, one of which was thrown out by catcher Andrew Piraino while trying to steal second base in the seventh inning. Quentin McDaniel singled off Armstrong with one out in the first inning, but was stranded at second base.
Gavin Blodgett pitched three perfect innings for the Raiders, striking out four batters in the process.
“We have to execute, otherwise this season will continue the way it is, we’ve had seven one-run games,” Tellers said. “When we make a mistake defensively, that’s when it will cost us because we can’t manufacture a run. The pitching that we’re getting has been keeping us in ball games, but the first defensive mistake we make will cost us.”
The Raiders dealt with a different problem in their second game, a 4-2 loss to Murrieta Mesa.
Sonora (5-5-1) committed five errors in the contest and the Rams broke up a 2-2 tie with two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to drop the Raiders to 0-1-1 on the day.
The Raiders continue play in the Anaheim Lions Tournament with a Monday afternoon home game against Torrance at 3:15 p.m. Sonora will again be the designated visiting team.