Mustangs open league play Friday

The Minarets Mustangs baseball team (8-2) faced its toughest team of the young season, Fresno, losing 7-2 on March 21. The Warriors (10-3-1) have won three consecutive league titles behind Jason Papi with the guidance of Valley baseball legend Ken Papi, Jason’s father, sitting on the bench.

A solid and defensively sound baseball team, the Papis focus on fundamentals and play hard on every ball. That would prove to be the difference in this game, as the Mustangs scored in the first inning when Christian Conti singled to right, advanced on Hunter Thompson’s ground out, and scored off a wild pitch. The Warriors answered back with a unearned run in the bottom of the frame. After walking the leadoff batter, pitcher Aaron Hall surrendered a double with tied the score at 1-1.

To beat a sound team you must play a clean game and the Mustangs struggled. With one out in the third and runners at first and second, Thompson’s strikeout was the second out of the inning, Conti was caught staying off first, and a backdoor pick resulted in Hall being run off second and tagged for a double play, ending a promising Mustangs inning.

Things got worse in the bottom of the frame as Hall’s error on a routine throw to first pulled Thompson off the bag. The Warriors followed with a single to put runners at first and second. Following a strikeout, Hall hit the next batter to load the bases. A soft hit to Hall was misplayed resulting in another Warriors run. The next batter singled to right scoring one to put the Warriors up 4-1 after three innings. Hall would leave the game with a strained muscle.

Tyler Painter relieved, giving up a single along with back-to-back walks, loading the bases with one out. A wild pitch would plate another run for the Warriors to make the score 5-1 after four innings.

Anything that could go wrong, went wrong as the Mustangs threatened with back-to-back walks. With a 2-1 count Hall singled to the gap, as lead runner E.G.Walden rounded third he tripped, scrambling back to third as Matt Blumberg was caught between second and third, he was able to slide safe back into second safely. The Mustangs, who should have scored two runs to cut into the Warriors lead, settled for bases loaded, one out. Conti would ground out to score the Mustangs’ second and last run of the game. Both coaches went to reserves in the bottom of the sixth and seventh.

The Mustangs rebounded quickly on March 23 with a 14-2 win against Mendota (3-8). Minarets out hit the Aztecs 15-3, scoring three runs in the second, six runs in the third, and another four in the fourth to put the game away early.

Walden and Tyler Painter had three RBIs each, with Thompson, Blumberg, and Batty collecting two each.

The Mustangs open West Sequoia League play at 3:30 p.m. Friday at Fowler.