Pretty much every time Santa Fe and Ball High square off at Tor Field, it’s a close game decided by the smallest of hiccups, and that was no different on a foggy, blustery afternoon Tuesday as the Indians topped the Tors, 1-0, in their District 22-5A season opener.
“It’s just how it goes, it’s very strange,” Ball High head coach Russell Ferrell said. “And today with the fog and the wind, it was going to be tough to score, anyway. … And we ran into a hot pitcher who’s really good and threw strikes.”
Santa Fe broke a scoreless stalemate in the top of the sixth when courtesy runner Timothy Hurd raced home on a bases-loaded, two-out wild pitch.
Catcher Grant Pfaff hit a one-out single to get things started in the inning for the Indians, and then left fielder Billy Parker and starting pitcher Rome Shubert drew back-to-back two-out walks to load the bases. Tors starting pitcher Keegan Gavin induced a fly out to right field to avoid further damage.
Shubert was masterful on the mound for Santa Fe, throwing a complete-game one-hit shutout with five strikeouts and no walks, and he needed just 67 pitches to get through his seven innings. At the plate, Shubert did not record an official at-bat, walking three times.
“We’re really glad to have him back,” Santa Fe head coach Ronnie Wulf said. “He was hurt earlier in the year and hasn’t really thrown that many games, but he threw great today.”
It was a tough-luck loss for Gavin, who surrendered only three hits and four walks with four strikeouts in six innings of work.
Ball High’s lone hit of the game was a hard-hit single off the bat of shortstop Edgar Salinas with one out in the bottom of the first. Left fielder Jaylan Nixon was hit by a pitch in the at-bat prior to Salinas, but with two on and one out, Santa Fe turned a textbook 6-4-3 double play to erase the early threat.
Tors center fielder Chris Orton got on base after being hit by a pitch with two outs in the bottom of the third, but was caught stealing. Third baseman Spencer Addison reached base on a one-out error in the bottom of the fifth, but a fly out and a groundout ended the inning as Shubert proceeded to retire the final eight Ball High batters in order.
Santa Fe left the bases loaded on a fly out to right field in the top of the fourth after shortstop Albert Garza hit a leadoff single, third baseman Bryce Montemayor smacked a one-out single up the middle and Shubert drew a two-out walk.
The Indians again found themselves with runners in scoring position in the top of the seventh thanks to a leadoff walk drawn by second baseman Gregory Adams and a one-out double smoked down the right field line by Nicholas McDonald, but a strikeout and successful pickoff throw to third ended the inning.
“We just have to hit the ball with runners in scoring position,” Wulf said. “That’s been our forte this whole year, so far. We need to have that guys who’s going to say, ‘I’m going to do it,’ and just be that guy.”
Santa Fe is scheduled to return to action 2 p.m. Thursday at home against Friendswood, which defeated Texas City 12-2 on Tuesday. Ball High will try to bounce back 1 p.m. Thursday at Galena Park.
“Hopefully, we’ll build on it and do better and get a win on Thursday,” Ferrell said.