FARMINGTON — If the opening game between RC Baker and the Pack is any indication of how the Connie Mack City Tournament will shape up, baseball fans are in for a treat.
In their match up at the Farmington Sports Complex Tuesday evening, the Pack edged out the River Cats for a 2-1 win in a classic pitchers' duel.
The Pack struck right away in the top of the first when third baseman Konnar McGee hit a grounder that bounced off the heel of shortstop Elijah Gamboa's glove and shot into left field. Kevin Morales, the Pack's leadoff batter who was on second, sped around third and made it home for the run.
In trouble again in the top of the second, RC Baker's Phil Archuleta walked one and hit another to put runners on first and second with one out. From the dugout, River Cats coach Lars Baker told Archuleta to just put the ball in play and let the defense make a play. Archuleta did just that, as Morales hit into the inning-ending 3-6-3 double play.
"We had, I think, four double plays," Baker said. "Defensively, we played pretty well, but hitting is where we struggled tonight."
The River Cats were held to just four hits on the night as Pack starting pitcher Dayne Black kept the opposing lineup guessing for much of the night.
"Dayne Black threw a great game," Baker said. "He threw a whole bunch of 2-2 curveballs and 3-2 curveballs, and if you can do that for a strike, you're going to be tough to beat."
The off-speed pitches in a hitter's count are something Black said he's not afraid to do throughout the tournament.
"Starting off, I was trying to stay within myself and not really throwing hard and just wanted to work into it later in the game, and I was able to," Black said. "Even on 3-2 counts, I'm not afraid to throw a curveball. I was able to get them to roll over, and my field really helped me out today, too, so that was nice."
Black's defense came through for him in the bottom of the fourth to keep the River Cats off the board. RC Baker third baseman TJ Padilla singled into shallow right-center, and Kyle DeWees, who was on second, got the wave to go home. The throw came on a rope from Luis DeLeon in center and was in plenty of time get DeWees at the plate.
But the River Cats would touch home the next inning.
Tray Franks hit a chopper to short that looked to be a routine ground ball, but the throw to first was off target, allowing Andrew Caliendo, who had reached third, to go for home. The throw behind first base came to the plate as Caliendo slid in and looked to be in time, but after a moment's hesitation, the umpire signaled the runner safe, tying the score at 1-1.
The tie game was short-lived as the Pack scored again in the top of the sixth inning on a play Baker described as "a brain fart."
On a 0-1 count to Randy Haley, Archuleta went to pick off Black at second, who made his move to third. Gamboa's throw from second to third in an effort to catch Black as he tried to steal the base sailed high. That allowed Black to make it home for what would be the deciding run.
"We had one bad inning on defense but the kids battled through it and got the momentum back and scored again," Pack coach Patrick Aspaas said. "We told our boys to be psyched for the next game, and hopefully, we can carry this momentum over."
While Aspaas told his squad to be excited about the next game, the message Baker will send his kids is to simply bounce back from the tough loss.
"We had some unlucky things happen, but tomorrow the ball may bounce the other way, but only if you make it bounce the other way," Baker said. "Go play hard, run hard 90s, stand in there and wear one, which we did a couple times tonight. We didn't do anything wrong, it's just one of those days you get beat."
In the night's second game at the Complex, a near-perfect performance from Bloomfield wasn't enough to upset 4-Corners, who escaped with a 2-0 victory.
"It's the City Tournament. Anything can happen, and luckily we got a couple runs across," said 4-Corners coach Brett Alexander. "The biggest thing is you've got to pitch well and play defense."
4-Corners certainly got great pitching and defense throughout the game. Starting pitcher Gunner Archuleta entered the seventh inning with a perfect game intact, but lost it on the inning's first at bat.
"Gunner threw his tail off," said Bloomfield coach Frank DeHoyos. "What do you do? He's good."
With the win, 4-Corners earned a second round bye and won't be back in action until Thursday night, while Bloomfield plays at 8 p.m. today against RC Baker at the Farmington Sports Complex.