An excellent day at the plate from shortstop Izaac Pacheco and a lights-out save from pitcher Max Mims helped the Friendswood Mustangs pick up a key 7-6 win Tuesday against the Ball High Tors at Bobby Black Field.
“That win was big for us,” Friendswood head coach Cory Benevides said. “There are a lot of teams in this district that are strong, and (Ball High is) one of the teams that do all the little things right. You make a mistake, and they make you pay for it.”
The win provided a major boost to Friendswood’s (7-4 in District 22-5A) push for a playoff spot, keeping the Mustangs two games ahead of Crosby (5-6) and Galena Park (5-6) — both of whom also won Tuesday.
The Mustangs also got a little help from their county rival Santa Fe Indians, who defeated Goose Creek Memorial (7-4) by the score of 4-3 Tuesday, putting Friendswood into a tie for third place in the district standings.
Santa Fe’s win also softens the blow of Tuesday’s loss for Ball High (8-3), which remains a game ahead of Friendswood and GCM for second place in district.
A one-out walk drawn by Tors second baseman Jaylan Nixon and a well-executed bunt single from shortstop Edgar Salinas set up an RBI single smacked by third baseman Spencer Addison that put Ball High ahead 1-0 in the top of the third.
But, Friendswood put a pair of crooked numbers on the scoreboard in the bottom of the third and fourth innings to, seemingly, take control of the game.
Left fielder Jacob Valdez led off the bottom of the third by reaching base on an error, and later, third baseman Devon Andrews singled with one out. After a strikeout, it looked like the Tors might escape the jam, but Pacheco had other ideas as he blasted a pitch over the right field wall for a three-run home run to put the Mustangs ahead, 3-1.
“He’s worked his butt off these past two weeks to get back to what he can do, and it was good to see that,” Benevides said of Pacheco’s night. “A player like that, when he’s going, the team’s going. So, that was really good to see.”
Pitching and defense — typically Ball High’s strengths — were not on the Tors’ side in Friendswood’s four-run bottom of the fourth.
Designated hitter Cooper Linch laced a single down the left field line and catcher Dylan Maxey drew a walk to start the frame. With one out, center fielder Asa Ehrlich was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and Andrews walked on four pitches to force a runner home for a 4-1 lead.
Right fielder Spencer Beck hit a run-scoring fielder’s choice. A throwing error as Ball High attempted to turn the grounder into a 6-4-3 double play allowed a second run to score. Then, Pacheco again had a big two-out knock, smashing a pitch high off the tall center field wall for an RBI triple and 7-1 lead.
Ball High refused to go down without a fight, plating five runs in the top of the fifth — and needing just one base hit to do so.
The Tors’ first five batters reached base, which led to the first two runs of the inning. Nixon walked, Salinas reached on an error, and Addison walked to load the bases. Then, catcher Adam Trevino and right fielder Thomas Farmer drew back-to-back bases-loaded walks to cut Friendswood’s lead to 7-3.
After a strikeout, first baseman Gabe Freeman worked a bases-loaded RBI walk, center fielder Ryan Blacketer lofted an RBI sacrifice fly to left field, and starting pitcher Chris Orton lined an RBI single to left field to get the Tors within one run at 7-6.
“I’m really, really proud of our team, because it’s easy for a high school team to shut it down when it’s 7-1, and we answered back with five,” Ball High head coach Russell Ferrell said. “We’re not the type of team that’s going to hit it out of the park, but we’re going to take some walks, get some bunts down, put the ball in play, and make the other team get us out.
“So, I’m not happy that we lost, but I’m happy with the way we answered back,” Ferrell added.
The Mustangs were able to record an out on the base paths to end the top of the fifth, and then saw the live arm of Mims close things out for a two-inning save. Mims retired all six Ball High batters he faced with three strikeouts.
“He’s been a guy that we have a lot of confidence in,” Benevides said. “He’s come in and closed a lot of games for us in tight situations, just like that one. He’s one of the guys who has that mind-set that he’s ready to go.”
In addition to Pacheco’s (2-for-3, four RBIs) power hitting, Friendswood got a multi-hit game from Ehrlich (2-for-3, two singles, one run). Andrews reached base three times on an error, a single and a walk.
Every batter in Ball High’s lineup reached base at least once in spite of the fact that there were only four base hits. Reaching base twice apiece in the game for the Tors were Trevino (single, RBI walk), Addison (RBI single, walk), Nixon (two walks), Farmer (two walks) and Salinas (single, error).
Friendswood will be back in action 7 p.m. at Crosby. Ball High will look to bounce back 6 p.m. Thursday at home against last-place Baytown Lee.