Cave pitched a complete seven-inning game and earned a win as the Panthers (14-9, 2-1 District 1-4A) defeated the Bobcats (11-9, 4-0 District 1-3A) 10-1 at John Gutierrez Field in Bloomfield.
Cave struck out seven Bobcats and walked four. He forced Bloomfield into 11 ground ball outs and the Bobcats recorded just three hits. Only one ball off the bat of a Bobcat left the infield all game.
“It is always good when you miss some bats and get ground balls. Our defense is the strongest component of our team, so it really makes me comfortable on the mound,” Cave said. “It was imperative that I got a good start and was able to go the complete game just to get in a rhythm.”
Cave hadn’t found that rhythm in recent games and struggled to last more than a couple of innings at a time.
“I really think it was his second best outing of the year, next to his start against Miyamura. The only reason I think the Miyamura outing was better was he didn’t walk four in that game,” said PV head coach Mike McGaha. “One element that was better was he threw his curveball for a strike 60 percent of the time, which has been his struggle so far mentally. That was huge. Now, he will get another start under his belt before the start of the playoffs. If he has another good outing like that, I really like where we are with our No. 1 and No. 2 guys.”
While Cave has struggled in his return to pitching after Tommy John ligament surgery on his throwing arm, he and McGaha have sought out advice from other guys who have gone through the procedure.
“We talked to Jason Ray, an ex-Panther kid that plays for the San Diego Padres organization in Triple-A. He had Tommy John surgery awhile back, so we are trying to figure out how to get Jacy to come along or whatever,” McGaha said. “It is really a feel thing. Some days he says it feels like it is gold, and some days he doesn’t know. He was trying to push it and then had some lower back issues, then it moved to the other side of his back. Even today, he was battling a headache. He definitely has some demons chasing him, but he is getting away from them.”
Ray advised Cave and McGaha that it isn’t until about week 18 of pitching after the surgery before a pitcher’s arm gets back to normal and their command starts to return.
“Up until then, they feel different every time they go out,” McGaha said. “Jacy is at week 16 or 17. He is just short of that, so hopefully he will find it May 1.”
Tyler Barker started the game on the mound for Bloomfield. He went four and one-third innings and gave up just five hits while walking three and striking out three Panthers. After allowing a solo home run to Zach Ahlgrim and walking Ian Doughty, he was relieved in the fifth inning by Kyle Thompson.
Overall, it was a solid outing for Barker, who kept the Bobcats in the game as long as possible before he left with Bloomfield trailing 5-0.
“That is what he needed to do. He hasn’t seen a lineup like that in awhile,” said Bloomfield head coach Frank DeHoyos of his starting pitcher.
“He needed that for his confidence. He did well. I just wish we would have done some things to help him out. We panicked a little bit.”
McGaha was also happy to see the left-handed Barker on the mound.
“It was good for us to see another lefty if (Tyson) Curley gives us another shot Saturday in Aztec. I doubt we see him but, if we do, we just saw a lefty two days ago,” McGaha said. “I fully expect to see Matt Huffhines when we play Farmington, and Huffhines is a kid real similar to (Barker). It gives us something to build off going forward.”
It took PV until the third inning to score when a Jeremy Johnson single drove in Tyler Archuleta, who led off the inning with a double.
Archuleta drove in two more runs in the fourth with a single that scored Doughty and Dillan Vigil.
Bloomfield had its only real opportunity in the third inning when Cave walked Elisha Journey before giving up a hit to Humberto Miramontes.
But Journey was caught too far off third base on a soft comebacker to Cave who picked him off third base.
Cave then eventually picked off Miramontes on third base when the bases were loaded. It was the second out at third base for Bloomfield in the inning with both outs coming with Bobcats trying to dive back to the bag.
“We made some base running mistakes and that has been a problem all year. We have to do a better job of it, and it starts with me coaching and doing a better job on the bases with them,” DeHoyos said. “It hurt us big time. At that time, it could have been a 2-1 game for us. We could have built some confidence and made it a different game.”
Bloomfield’s lone run came in the seventh inning when Chris Garcia scored on a Donnie Trujillo groundout to second base.
Bloomfield is back in action Saturday at Wingate, and Piedra Vista will face Aztec on Saturday in a pivotal game.
“I would say the Aztec game is the biggest game left in the district for us,” McGaha said. “We have to win that game to have a chance to set up a matchup with Farmington High. If we don’t win that game, then the one with FHS doesn’t even matter.”
John Livingston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.