Region front runners tangle in Morenci on Thursday

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Tony Roybal delivers the first pitch to Kearny Ray leadoff batter Trucon Naranjo to get the game underway on April 20. The Bearcats senior singled on and scored, but Morenci prevailed 11-4 and hosts No. 3, Benson, on Thursday, April 21 as No. 5. The teams are one and three in the East Region standings, with Benson winning the prior pairing 22-0 in five innings on March 29. The regular-season finale is April 26 for both teams, Morenci at Bisbee and Benson at Pima.

Post-season pairings on the line

By Raymundo Frasquillo

MORENCI – The Christopher Aguallo-coached Morenci Wildcats welcome the East Region leading Benson Bobcats to Francis Waldorf Stadium on Thursday, April 21. The first pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m.

Other region pairings this week include Willcox at Bisbee on April 21, Bisbee at Willcox, and Tombstone at Pima on Friday, April 22. The remaining region games are Benson at Pima, Morenci at Bisbee, and Willcox at Tombstone on April 26.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Leadoff batter Daylen Johnson singled on and was one of three runs scored by Morenci in the first inning.

The current region standings have Benson (7-1) first, Tombstone (5-3) second, Morenci (5-3) third, Pima (3-5) fourth, Willcox (2-5) fifth, and Bisbee (1-6) sixth.

In region pairings, Benson has topped Willcox 16-1 in five innings (March 23), Bisbee 15-2 in five innings (March 25), Morenci 22-0 in five innings (March 29), Tombstone 8-1 (April 5), Willcox 12-3 (April 8), Tombstone 24-10 in five innings (April 11), and Bisbee 12-0 in five innings (April 19).

Tombstone has defeated Bisbee 11-3 (March 22), Morenci 4-2 (March 25), Pima 16-2 in five innings (March 28), Bisbee 6-4 (April 8), and Willcox 12-6 (April 15)

Morenci had bested Pima 7-1 (March 11), Bisbee 10-1 (March 18), Willcox 9-6 (April 5), Willcox 20-10 in five innings (April 12), and Tombstone 6-5 (April 19).

Pima defeated Benson 10-8 (March 1), Morenci 5-4 (March 22), and Bisbee 10-9 (April 13); Willcox downed Pima 9-1 (March 25) and 5-2 (April 19); and Bisbee topped Pima 8-6 (April 13).

“I like our chances,” the third-year Morenci head coach said. “From what I’ve seen of other teams, we have a good shot at winning it all If we play like we’re capable of. We’re all beating ourselves up (in the region).”

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Emilio Roybal slides in ahead of the throw to second base during the third inning.

At the state level, the East Region has all six members in the top 12. Benson is No. 3 (11-3 seeding, 9.0096 rating), Tombstone No. 4 (12-3, 8.4560), Morenci No. 5 (10-4, 7.1539), Pima No. 10 (7-6, 2.7669), Willcox No. 11 (5-8, 2.3586), and Bisbee No. 12 (6-7, 1.6727) as of noon April 21.

The rest of the current Top 24 includes four teams from the West and Metro Regions; three teams from the Valley region; and two teams each from the South, North, and  Central Regions.

Wildcats – 11, Bearcats – 4

The visiting Bearcats took an early lead, scoring the initial batter. He singled on, advanced to second on a passed ball, and crossed the plate on a throwing error. It would be the only scoring advantage they would have for the remainder of the game. The second batter reached first after absorbing a pitch with his body, but the next three were retired in order. The Bearcats went three up and three down in each of the second, third, fourth, and fifth innings. Seven Bearcats stepped to the plate in the sixth, with three scoring, and five in the seventh.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci senior infielder Dominick Chavez made the throw for the game-ending out against Ray.

Morenci countered with three runs in the bottom of the first, using a sacrifice fly, a throwing error, and a passed ball to score. The Wildcats added one in the second, two in the third, fourth, and fifth, and one in the sixth to complete their scoring.

For the game, Morenci batted .452 (14-31), left five runners on, and committed two errors compared to .192 (5-26), four stranded runners, and two errors by Ray.

Junior Daylen Johnson batted 1.000 (4-4, double, RBI), junior Derek Saenz .667 (2-3, triple, RBI), senior Rico Cortez (2-4, 2 RBIs), sophomore Anthony Ballesteros (2-4, RBI), and senior Shawn Hudman (1-2) each .500, juniors Patrick Chavez (RBI) and Gabriel Hernandez both .333 (1-3), sophomore Emilio Roybal .250 (1-4), and senior Tony Roybal 0-3 (Sac, RBI).

Tony Roybal went the distance on the mound, allowing five hits, striking out 11, walking one, and beaning two while facing 29 batters during seven innings.

For Ray, senior Tracon Naranjo batted .677 (2-3), and senior Johnaven Pace, junior Hunter Day (double, 2 RBIs), and freshman Mark Chester .333 (1-3) apiece.

Senior starting pitcher Jack Warren allowed six hits, struck out one, and walked one while facing 16 batters during 2 2/3 innings. Junior reliever Isaac Dowler-Robles yielded three hits and walked one while facing 12 batters during two innings. Senior closer Naranjo allow4ed two hits and struck out one while facing six batters during 1 1/3 innings.

Wildcats – 6, Yellow Jackets – 5

With the score knotted at 5-5, it came down to the final bat in the bottom of the seventh. Two batters provided a run. Number three hitter Ballesteros doubled on, advanced to third on a passed ball, and was singled in by clean-up hitter Hernandez on a full-count swing.

Tombstone scored once in both the first and second while Morenci scored once in the second, twice in the third to tie and take the lead, and twice in the sixth for a 5-2 advantage. The visitors added three in the seventh to tie.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Gabriel Hernandez checks the pitcher from the batting circle. The Morenci junior singled in the game-winning run on a full count swing versus Tombstone on April 19.

For the game, Morenci batted .357 (10-28), left four runners on, and made one error compared to .385 (1-26), six stranded runners, and three errors by Tombstone.

Emilio Roybal batted 1.000 (1-1, RBI), Johnson .667 (2-3, double, 2 RBIs), Ballesteros (double) and Hernandez both .500 (2-4, RBI), both Cortez (RBI) and Saenz .333 (1-3), and Tony Roybal .250 (1-4).

Johnson went the distance on the mound, allowing 10 hits, striking out five, and walking three while facing 33 batters during seven innings.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Anthony Ballesteros returns to first ahead of the pick-off attempt. The Morenci sophomore scored the game-deciding run against Tombstone on April 19.

For Tombstone, junior Ty Adams batted 1.000 (3-3, home run, 3 RBIs), seniors Nate Ellison (2-4) and Joel Esparza (1-2) both .500, sophomore Gabe Garcia (double, RBI), junior Cesar Canez and sophomore Maurice Alvarez both .333 (1-3), and freshman D.J. Ellis .250 (1-4).

Mound starter Canez allowed six hits, struck out two, and walked two while facing 22 batters during 4 2/3 innings. Reliever Adams yielded one hit and walked two while facing five batters during one inning. Closer Esparza allowed two hits while facing four batters during 1/3 inning.