Wolverines’ last-inning rally falls short

AARON GUTIERREZ of Tolleson throws a second-inning pitch March 9 against Mesa. The Wolverines won 2-1 against Mesa to stay undefeated, but dropped a 7-5 game to Alhambra the next day.  View photo by Mike Rincon
AARON GUTIERREZ of Tolleson throws a second-inning pitch March 9 against Mesa. The Wolverines won 2-1 against Mesa to stay undefeated, but dropped a 7-5 game to Alhambra the next day. View photo by Mike Rincon

Tolleson on torrid pace to begin year

Tolleson baseball tasted defeat for the first time this season March 10 at the hands of Phoenix Alhambra, 7-5.

The Wolverine bats couldn’t solve Alhambra starter Jesus Aldaz’s pitching puzzle, tagging him for only one run in six-plus innings pitched. Tolleson was able to chase Aldaz from the game in the seventh because of pitch count, and put up a four-run rally in his absence in the final inning, but it fell just short.

That will be one of the best arms in the state,” Tolleson coach Scott Richardson said of Aldaz. “There’s a reason for that. He throws a breaking ball for a strike, and runs it up there with the fastball. We tried to take some pitches early, but he was pounding the zone. We finally got him to his pitch limit in the seventh, and as you can see, it was a different ballgame.”

Tolleson’s interesting seventh inning began with an RBI single by Luis Castillo off Alhambra reliever David Avitia to make it 7-2. Castillo then advanced to third and scored on consecutive wild pitches. Jose Quezada later scored on an error by the Alhambra left fielder after a single by Aaron Gutierrez, and Ramon Velasco knocked in the final run with a single of his own.

Tolleson had the tying run on first with two outs, but sophomore Omar Baldenegro flied out to left field to end the rally and the game.

Our goal there in the last inning is to get the tying run to the plate,” Richardson said. “We actually got the tying run to first base. Ball doesn’t land here and there, and that’s it. That’s just the way it goes.”

Richardson said the loss was disappointing because of the slow start, but it doesn’t change the narrative of the Wolverines’ play so far this year.

This doesn’t define our season at all,” he said. “The best team in Major League Baseball loses 60 games. We lost one right now. We’re going to grow from it, get better and move on.

There were definitely some bright spots. We made a change in the outfield, and he comes in and gets two knocks. We battled and clawed there at the end.”

Kevin Ortega started the game on the mound for Tolleson, but his effort was undermined by a few mishaps in the field. Two dropped fly balls — one in the infield and one in the outfield — led to a couple of runs, while technically earned, could have been avoided.

That was the difference in three runs,” Richardson said. “You might lose focus for one pitch, and the chances of the ball being hit to you are 1,000-to-1. Well, that’s what happened. Our outfielder losing focus, the ball was hit to him, the lights here aren’t the best and he didn’t pick it up, and it cost us runs.”

Richardson said he was pleased with his team’s fight at the end of the game.

There are definitely some positives,” he said. “That’s why I love these guys. We’re going to keep playing until the umpires make us leave, and they finally did that at the end.”

8 out of the gate

Tolleson’s loss to Alhambra aside, things have gone the Wolverines’ way in the first part of the schedule. Tolleson opened with eight consecutive victories, including winning the Wayne DesCombes West Side Invitational tournament Feb. 22-25.

Richardson said the team is making sure the good start isn’t going to its head.

In baseball, you’ve got to keep that even keel,” he said. “You can’t get too high and you can’t get too low. Yeah, we win eight, but maybe there’s some question marks with the quality of some of the teams we’ve played. I’m happy with the way we’re playing. Not judging the other teams, I’m happy with the way we’re playing.”

Tolleson got back to its winning ways Monday against Phoenix Trevor G. Browne, beating the Bruins 5-0. The Wolverines host Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor at 6 p.m. today before participating in the Pride Classic March 20-24, an event held at nine different locations around the Valley, featuring 38 teams from 10 different states.


Shane McOwen can be reached at smcowen@westvalleyview.com or on Twitter @ShaneMcOwen.

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