Wildcats open season 4-0; sit atop 2A East Region

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Daylen Johnson delivers a pitch to a Bisbee batter during the season opener March 17. The Morenci sophomore was the starting pitcher as the home team prevailed 17-1 in an abbreviated non-region contest. The 4-0 Wildcats host the 0-1 Eagar Round Valley Elks for a third region contest Tuesday, March 30.

Morenci hosts Round Valley on Tuesday

By Raymundo Frasquillo

MORENCI – The 2021 Morenci “Boys of Spring” posted a 17-1 season-opening abbreviated win over the Bisbee Pumas on March 17, followed by a come from behind 6-4 win over the Tempe Prep Knights on March 20, and an 11-7 region win over the Pima Roughriders on March 23, all played in Francis Waldorf Stadium. The Christopher Aguallo-coached Wildcats broke a 7-7 regulation tie in Saint Johns with 11 runs on March 26.

How could they do all that?

“We were better prepared at this point than last season,” Aguallo said.

The 2020 Wildcats  (6-2 overall, 3-1 seeding, 2-0 region) played only three weeks before the season was put on hold and called off with the closing of “in-class learning” by the state governor.

Returning for 2021 are 2019 all-region second-team senior Maddux Martinez, along with seniors Francisco Araiza, Preston Johnson, Lance “LT” Morey, and Jordan Reyes; juniors Shawn Hudman and Tony Roybal, and sophomores Patrick Chavez, Gabriel Hernandez, Daylen Johnson, and Derek Saenz.

Through the weekend, Morenci (4-0 overall, 2-0 region) is atop the 2A East Region standings, followed by Miami (3-0, 1-0), Eagar Round Valley (0-1, 0-1), Saint Johns (0-2, 0-1), and Pima (0-3, 0-1).

Miami topped Superior 15-2 (March 17), Eloy Santa Cruz 16-5 (March 23), and Round Valley 7-2 (March 26); Saint Johns also fell 7-12 to Holbrook (March 27), and Pima also fell 3-12 to Phoenix Christian (March 17) and 5-7 to Willcox (March 26).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Lance “LT” Morey safely advances to second base as Bisbee senior shortstop Manny Amaya awaits the ball. The Morenci senior lead-off hitter scored the season’s initial run after getting beaned on the first pitch.

This week, Round Valley is at Morenci and Saint Johns at Pima on Tuesday, March 30 in region pairings.

Other games for region members include Round Valley at Heber Mogollon and Saint Johns at Joseph City on Thursday, April 1 along with Pima at Winkelman Hayden on Friday, April 2.

Morenci – 18, Saint Johns – 8

Morenci scored 11 8th-inning runs and limited the hosts to a lone run during an extra-inning of play. Preston Jonson walked, Morey bunted on, Roybal got on with a fielder choice bunt, and Daylen Johnson was beaned with the bases loaded to drive in Preston Johnson. A fielding error following the swing of Reyes’ bat allowed Morey and Roybal to come in, Araiza singled on, Anthony Ballesteros singled on with one out and a throwing error got Araiza in. Saenz walked and Preston Johnson was beaned to load the bases, Morey walked to drive in Ballesteros, Roybal’s sacrifice centerfield fly allowed Saenz to score, Daylen Johnson singled in Preston Johnson with two outs, and a Reyes double drove in Morey and Daylen Johnson before the ensuing batter struck out.

Trailing 3-7 after six, the Wildcats sent eight batters to the plate in the 7th-inning, added four runs to knot the score, and limited four Redskins to no runs. Four consecutive walks, allowed as many Wildcats on, two wild pitches brought two in, and two host errors got two more runners on plus allowed runs six and seven to come in.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Jordan Reyes follows through with his swing. The Morenci senior infielder singled in the lead-off hitter from the clean-up position during the season-opener with Bisbee from the clean-up position.

The score was tied 1-1 after a complete inning of play, added four in the second, and one each in the fourth and fifth (1-7) before Morenci added two in the sixth.

Morenci batted .250 (9-36), left eight runners on, and made five errors compared to .120 (3-25), 11 stranded runners, and eight errors for Saint Johns.

Reyes (double, 5 RBIs) and Daylen Johnson (2 RBIs) both batted .500 (2-4), Morey .333 (1-3, RBI), Roybal (sac, RBI), and Araiza (RBI) .250 (1-4) apiece, and both Hernandez and Ballesteros (RBI) .200 (1-5) each.

On the mound, starter Reyes allowed three hits, struck out six, walked six, and beaned two while facing 29 batters during five innings; reliever Saenz struck out one and walked three while facing seven during two innings; and closer Morey struck out two, walked one, and beaned two while facing six batters during an inning.

For Saint Johns, Cael Stewart batted 1.000 (1-1, RBI), Joseph Bushman .333 (1-3, double, RBI), Gage Trickey .250 (1-4), and Daysen Spencer 0-2 (RBI).

Justin Burt (5 inn.), Stewart (1 inn.), Bushman (1 inn.), Trickey (2/3 inn.), and Clance Wiltbank (1/3 inn.) combined their pitching skills to yield nine hits and a sacrifice fly, strike out nine, walk nine, and bean four while facing 50 batters during eight innings.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Maddux Martinez visits with area official Luis Bayardo during a break in the action. The Morenci senior infielder batted 0-1 in the first game and combined for .429 (3-7) with a double, home run, and five RBIs in the next two.

Morenci – 11, Pima – 7

Morenci scored initially as a walked Roybal crossed the plate on an error with two outs in the bottom of the first inning. The Wildcats never trailed thereafter, adding two in the second before the visiting Roughriders scored two in the fourth. Hernandez drilled a 2-strike pitch over the 350-foot left-field fence, driving in Araiza along with himself to give the home team a 3-0 advantage.

Five runs were added in the fifth, a bases-loaded walk to Roybal with one out sent in a singled Hernandez, and Martinez cleared the bases with an inside the park right-centerfield homer. Roybal and singled Anthony Ballesteros and Preston Johnson crossed the plate ahead of Martinez. The Wildcats capped their scoring with three in the sixth, all on as many errors.

Pima scored twice in the fourth, once in the fifth, and four times in the seventh.

Morenci batted .328 (9-28), left six runners on, and made three errors compared to .310 (9-29), seven stranded runners, and seven errors by Pima.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Frank Araiza begins to swing in anticipation of meeting the ball with his bat. The senior outfielder batted 1.000 (3-3) with a double and three RBIs against Bisbee.

Hernandez batted 1.000 (2-2, home run, 2 RBIs), Reyes (2-4), Roybal (1-2), and Preston Johnson (1-2) each .500, and Martinez (home run, 4 RBIs), Daylen Johnson, and Ballesteros .250 (1-4) apiece.

On the mound, starter Daylen Johnson yielded six hits, struck out five, walked three, and beaned one while facing 23 batters during five innings; reliever Saenz allowed two hits, struck out four, and walked two while facing nine batters during 1 1/3 innings; and closer Reyes yielded a hit while facing three batters during 2/3 inning.

For Pima, sophomore Britt Hawkins batted .667 (2-3, 2 RBIs), freshman Devon Hewitt (2-4), junior Dallin Kartchner (2-4, RBI), and sophomore Cox Miller (1-2) each .500, and senior Caleb Barlow and junior Garrett Hewitt (double, 2 RBIs) both .250 (1-4).

On the mound, Miller allowed seven hits, struck out six and walked six while facing 28 batters during five innings. Freshman reliever R.J. Morales yielded two hits, struck out one, and beaned one while facing seven batters during one inning.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Junior infielder Tony Roybal watches the throw into his glove as Bisbee senior Luis Morales steals second base. Morales eventually scored the visitors’ lone first-inning run. Morenci prevailed 17-1 on March 17.

Morenci – 6, Tempe Prep – 4

Having taken a 4-0 advantage after two innings, the Knights were limited to no more than four batters up during the next five innings.

Roybal, Morenci’s starting pitcher, retired the visitors in order during the third, and except for a throwing error allowing a batter to reach first base, retired the next three batters in the fourth. Two errors and three walks had five Knights reaching first as reliever Reyes faced the next 13 batters.

The Wildcats trailed 4-0 before crossing the plate twice in the bottom of the third inning. With two outs and a runner on, Roybal turned a two-out, 1-1 pitch into an RBI double and senior infielder Martinez followed with a one-ball pitch RBI double, cutting the deficit to two before the third out.

Morenci added four runs in the fifth with one out, tying at four apiece, and crossing two more for the go-ahead final score. A walked Preston Johnson and singled Morey tied the score plus a walked Martinez and singled Reyes came in on a throwing error. The Wildcats were retired in order in their ensuing eight-plate appearances.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Baseball fans have returned to Francis Waldorf Stadium after a shortened 2020 season.

For the game, the Wildcats batted .259 (7-27), fielded .806 (25-31), committed six errors, and left six runners on compared to .038 (1-26), .920 (23-25), two errors, and nine stranded runners by the Knights.

Martinez batted .667 (2-3, double, RBI), Morey .500 (2-4, RBI), and Roybal (double, RBI), Reyes, and Hernandez each .333 (1-3).

On the mound, Roybal allowed one hit, struck out seven, and walked five while facing 21 batters during four innings. Reyes struck out three and walked three while facing 13 batters during three innings.

For the Knights, junior Diego Foster batted .333 (1-3, RBI) and Cole Rotner 0-3 (RBI).

Sophomore starting pitcher Rotner yielded five hits, struck out five, and walked two while facing 24 batters during five innings. Senior reliever Kenneth Roswell allowed two hits and beaned one while facing six batters during one inning.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Game announcer Bob Barich watches the on-field play in Francis Waldorf Stadium before talking on the microphone.

Morenci – 17, Bisbee – 1

The visiting Pumas scored once during their initial plate appearance, both reaching first and coming home on errors while sending five up. However, the perennial state contender sent no more than five in its next four offensive series. The Pumas totaled nine strikeouts, four fly-outs, and two ground-outs.

On the other side of the diamond, the hosts scored six runs with nine batters up in the first, five with 11 up in the second, and three each with nine up in both the third and fourth.

The Wildcats batted .565 (13-23), stranded eight runners, and committed two errors compared to .105 (2-19), six runners left on, and five errors by the Pumas.

Daylen Johnson (3-3, double, 3 RBIs), Araiza (3-3, double, 4 RBIs), and Ballesteros (2-2, RBI) each batted 1.000, Reyes .667 (2-3, RBI), Preston Johnson .500 (1-2), Roybal .333 (1-3), and Morey .250 (1-4).

On the mound, starter Daylen Johnson yielded two hits and struck out six while facing 13 batters during three innings. Reliever Saenz struck out three and walked three while facing nine batters during two innings.

For Bisbee, senior Manny Amaya and junior E.J. Hernandez batted .333 (1-3) each.

Senior Zergyo Adame, Hernandez, and sophomore David Zamudio combined their pitching skills to yield 13 hits, strike out five, walk nine, and bean four while facing 37 batters during four innings.