The Santa Fe Indians responded to some early adversity and got a strong stretch of pitching from starter Dalton Stevens en route to a 5-3 win over the Friendswood Mustangs at home Thursday afternoon.
A leadoff walk and a sacrifice bunt put Friendswood right fielder Garrett Leitko into scoring position with one out in the top of the first inning. Following a fly-out, an error at second base allowed the Mustangs to take a 1-0 lead.
The Indians wasted no time in picking up their teammate to put a two-spot on the scoreboard in the bottom of the first.
Santa Fe’s first two batters reached base when shortstop Albert Garza led off with a single up the middle and catcher Grant Pfaff was safe at first due to a fielding error on his sac bunt try. A sac bunt by third baseman Bryce Montemayor moved both runners into scoring position, and left fielder Billy Parker knocked an RBI single into left field. First baseman Rome Shubert followed that up by smashing an RBI double into the right-center field gap, and the Indians led 2-1 through one inning.
“The big thing to me was they went up 1-0, and we gave them the run, and then we came right back and scored two,” Santa Fe head coach Ronnie Wolf said. “That’s big in a big district game like this.”
After the run-scoring error in the top of the first, Stevens retired 16 Mustang batters in a row to settle things down. Meanwhile, the Indians were eventually able to add three runs to their lead in the bottom of the fourth.
“His performance was really big today,” Wulf said of Stevens. “He was injured in beginning of the year, and hasn’t thrown hardly at all. But, he was big, only gave up one hit.”
With one out in the bottom of the fourth, the slightest bobble on a grounder to shortstop was enough for designated hitter Cameron Bennett to reach safely, and Santa Fe pounced on the miscue. A Nicholas McDonald single and a walk to Garza loaded the bases, and Pfaff came through with an RBI single to right field. A run-scoring fielder’s choice grounder and an error at first base scored two more runs for a 5-1 Indians lead.
“We moved the runners and got a couple base hits when we needed them,” Wulf said. “I think we kind of slowed down toward the end of the game when we could have gotten a couple more hits there.”
A two-out walk in the top of the sixth drawn by Friendswood third baseman Jacob Warwick broke up Stevens’ streak of consecutive batters retired, and right after that, shortstop Izaac Pacheco lined a single to right field to end Stevens’ bid for a no-hitter. A collision between outfielders on a fly ball in left-center field allowed the Mustangs’ other two runners of the game to score.
Stevens picked up the win on the mound with a final line of 5.2 innings pitched, one hit, three walks, three strikeouts and no earned runs.
Jeremy Sheppard threw the final 1.1 innings to earn the save for Santa Fe. Sheppard retired the first three batters he faced on just one pitch each, and a first-pitch grounder mis-played at second base prevented Sheppard from getting his save on the minimum amount of pitches needed. But, Sheppard made a nice pick on a grounder hit right back to him and made the easy toss to first to wrap up the win.
Both teams are scheduled to return to action 7 p.m. Tuesday. Santa Fe (2-0 in District 22-5A) will be at Baytown Lee, while Friendswood (1-1) hosts Galena Park.