Mustangs open D-V playoffs at home Wednesday

Mustangs pitcher Hunter Thompson has been out with an injury, which has been a detriment to the team. The team hopes Thompson will return in the second round, should the Mustangs beat Rosamond on Wednesday, May 17.
Mustangs pitcher Hunter Thompson has been out with an injury, which has been a detriment to the team. The team hopes Thompson will return in the second round, should the Mustangs beat Rosamond on Wednesday, May 17. Special to Sierra Star

Needing a split to qualify for the West Sequoia League playoffs, the Minarets Mustangs baseball team (15-10, 5-5 WSL) took care of business with their backs against the wall last week.

After dropping a game against Caruthers 5-3 May 9, the Mustangs dominated the Riverdale Cowboys 10-0 from the first pitch on May 12.

Senior Matt Blumberg took the mound against Riverdale in the absence of fellow senior, Hunter Thompson, lost to injury. Blumberg threw six innings, surrendering five hits while walking one, with four strikeouts. The Mustangs out hit the Cowboys 12 to five, including three singles from Tyler Painter and two from his brother Matt. The Mustangs recorded extra base hits from Chris Bowe (a triple), and E.G. Walden (double), for two RBIs. Drew Robertson, Walden, and Tyler Painter each had two RBI’s for Minarets. Connor Reardon, Luke Batty and Matt Painter added one each.

The Mustangs stole four bases on the game while limiting the Cowboys to two. Team manager/player Nathan Pierce made his first appearance on the base paths for the Mustangs in the season’s final league game to the cheering of his team.

Against Caruthers May 9, the Mustangs dominated into the late innings with timely hits and solid defense. Walden started the game for Minarets and held his own through five innings of play. The Mustangs were cruising with a 2-0 lead going to the bottom of the fourth. Minarets would score in the fifth following a single by Walden who would come around to score on a sacrifice by Thompson to make it 3-1 after 4 1/2 innings.

In the bottom of the fifth, the Blue Raiders were threatening with runners at second and third against a drawn in infield, a ball hit to short resulted in the Mustangs’ first error of the game with an errant throw to Reardon at the plate, to make the game 3-2 Mustangs.

With two outs, Caruthers drove a ball deep to the left/center gap to clear the bases and go up 5-3. All runs were charged to Walden. Tyler Painter relieved for Walden, finishing out the game.

Minarets will face the No. 12 seed Rosamond Wednesday after receiving the No. 5 seed May 17. The two teams have one common opponent, Arvin. On paper the Roadrunners appear solid riding a 11 game win streak, with a 14-10 record, 10-0 in the High Desert League.

In 24 games the Roadrunners have scored 221 runs, averaging nine runs per game. In contrast the Mustangs have scored 100 less runs, at 121, averaging 4.8 runs a contest. Yet the Mustangs rank much higher in State and National rankings. In the state Minarets sits at No. 578, while Rosamond is ranked No. 892. Nationally, Minarets places No. 6,554, Rosamond, No. 10,773.

The troubling number for Minarets is the Roadrunners’ batting average of .390. Many players are batting higher then .450 with an on base percentage of .504. With five home runs and 67 stolen bases, Rosamond appears to be a formidable foe.

With a team 4.19 ERA the Mustangs should be able to put the ball in play. The team sports a solid .919 fielding percentage, meaning they do not beat themselves. Rosamond’s Adam Guzman is batting .500 in 14 games, Daniel Pacheco leads the team with a .543 average in 17 games, while Abraham Grimes is another of the the Roadrunners big sticks, hitting .476 on the season, collecting 30 hits in 77 at bats.

Rosamond has several players in double figures in the RBIs column, with a team .390 batting average its no wonder. Alejandro Peru leads the Roadrunners with 33 RBIs, Carlos Oceguera is second on the club with 29. The team has nine players in double figures with RBIs.

The Mustangs still resemble a Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde team, at times capable of beating any team, then losing to teams with far less talent. Losing Thompson, the Mustangs’ second starting pitcher, has hurt the Mustangs. Coach Jesse Darrah is hoping to have him back for the second round should the Mustangs advance.

Losing shortstop Christian Conti also did not help the Mustangs cause. The two starters’ presence will be missed but Darrah enjoys a deep bench that is quite capable of filling in. Thompson’s bat will be hard to replace, the senior is batting .379 on the season, second on the squad.

Aaron Hall will probably get the nod for the Mustangs. At 4-3 Hall has led the pitch rotation throughout the season, and has 71 strikeouts. The sophomore would have a much more respectable record if not for the team’s 36 errors on the year. Hall has surrendered 42 hits in 45 innings on the mound, with a 1.89 ERA.

Should Minarets make it past the Roadrunners they will face their neighbors to the south, Liberty-Madera Ranchos (15-10, 10-5 North Sequoia League). The Mustangs beat the Hawks March 1 in the Battle on the Mountain tournament hosted by Minarets.

That game will be played at 4 p.m., May 19, at Liberty. The Mustangs will need to play error free ball to reach the third round which would be against the defending Champions and No. 1 seeded Central Valley Christian (21-7, 10-5 Central Sequoia League), or Chavez (8 seed, 11-12-1, 7-5 South Sequoia League) vs Coalinga (9 seed, 12-16, 7-3 West Sierra League).

Should Minarets play to their potential, they could reach the championship game.