The Minarets Mustangs baseball team (4-0), playing host for its own three-week “Battle on the Mountain” tournament, has won all four of its games, the last two last week over the Liberty Hawks (2-1) and the Sierra Chieftains (3-1) after beating Parlier and McLane the prior week.
On March 1, Aaron Hall took the mound for Minarets against Liberty, and the Mustangs scored early with Christian Conti scoring from second off a Tyler Painter double. Painter scored off a Hunter Thompson single in the first inning.
A suicide squeeze added another run and the Mustangs were up 3-1 in the fourth when catcher Connor Reardon doubled with bases loaded to score two more, giving Minarets a 5-1 lead.
Liberty quickly came back with two runs of their own to close the gap to 5-3.
After a scoreless fifth inning that saw Liberty leave the bases loaded, and a scoreless sixth, Mustang closer Painter took the mound surrendering one unearned run for a 5-4 Mustangs win, with Liberty leaving the tying run on second base in the seventh inning.
“Wow, what a win for us, what a battle,” Mustang Coach Jesse Darrah said. “Both teams played very well and it’s a great experience to play in these types of competitive games and win them. This is what high school ball is all about.”
On March 4, Minarets had a showdown with Sierra who always seems to field a competitive team and the game played out as expected, down to the last out.
Hall scored the first run for the Mustangs, after singling, stealing second, advancing to third on a bunt, then scoring off a Matt Painter hit. The Mustangs went ahead 2-0 after four innings, and the score was 2-1 after back-to-back doubles by Sierra in the fifth. With neither team scoring again, Minarets won 2-1.
Defense was the difference for the Mustangs, and in the fifth, Conti made a great play on a ball hit over the second base bag to end the inning as Sierra left the bases loaded. In the bottom of the sixth the Chieftains would threaten again, with runners on first and second, a pitch glanced off the mitt of Reardon who recovered and threw to Thompson, who applied the tag at third, ending another promising inning for Sierra.
With runners on in the seventh, Thompson’s sliding catch on a foul ball recorded the second out for yet another outstanding defensive play by the Mustangs. Inning after inning the Mustangs played stellar defense, from Hall blocking a ball hit hard to him with his chest and making the play at first to Jacob Cullen tracking down a well hit ball to the left-center gap, to Reardon blocking a breaking ball in the dirt with a runner on third to get a Chieftain swinging for a big out with two men on.
“Although I told our guys that we didn’t play to our potential, it’s still great to win close games,” Darrah said. “Tyler (Painter) came in a big spot, to get the save but we have a lot of work to do to get better.”
Sierra, Mariposa, Liberty, McLane, and Parlier are playing in this year’s tournament.
The tournament championship game will be played at 3 p.m. Saturday.
Both Thompson (15 ks) and Hall (13 ks) are 2-0 on the young season.
The Mustangs played Union and Mariposa Monday and Tuesday. Scores were not available at press time.
Minarets will play D-II power Fresno High (5-1) on March 21, Mendota on March 23 and Hoover on , March 28.
West Sequoia League play opens at Fowler on March 31.
The Mustangs and Central Valley Christian currently sit atop the D-V standings with identical 4-0 records.
Tough start for softball team
Unlike the baseball team, the Mustang softball team and new coach Aerik Garcia has gotten off to a rocky start this season with two lopsided loses.
The first was a 13-2 loss to Sunnyside High of Fresno on Feb. 23, and the second at the hands of Yosemite on Feb. 28, losing 17-0.
The team played Roosevelt Tuesday (results not available at press time) and will host Immanuel High of Reedley at 3:30 p.m. on March 14, and Riverbank on March 29. League play opens April 6 in Parlier.