Three District 1-4A teams have earned a place in the semifinals of the Farmington Scorpion Invite.
Aztec, Farmington and Piedra Vista all won first-round games during the 27th Annual Scorpion Invite at Ricketts Park on Thursday.
The day started with Aztec (4-1) knocking off state runnerup Miyamura 14-0 behind a solid pitching performance out of Tanner Moore.
The Tigers had 21 hits in the game and every Aztec player in the lineup had at least one hit.
"We are swinging the bat well right now," said Aztec assistant coach Brett Alexander. "Moore threw well on the mound and we played clean behind him with only two errors. It is a good win and we hope to carry that momentum into the game against Farmington."
Moore pitched a complete game, striking out nine while allowing just four hits.
"He is one of those kids who you love playing defense behind. You know you will get the ball. He had only one walk in seven innings. He throws ground balls and fly balls, and is sneaky fast," Alexander said. "He can get up on you 0-2 in a hurry and then break off something real nice and nasty."
Piedra Vista (4-1) defeated Uintah High out of Vernal, Utah 10-0 in a run-rule shortened game.
Jacy Cave earned the win on the mound for the three-time defending state champion Panthers.
It was Cave's first start since undergoing Tommy John surgery in late 2011.
He didn't miss a beat, carrying a perfect game for 4 2-3 innings before allowing back-to-back hits. He struck out three and didn't issue a walk.
"It was nice to come out here. I had been having issues with my arm with soreness, but this first start felt pretty good," Cave said. "The warm weather had a lot to do with it. I have been waiting for a warm start to get my arm feeling healthy. It felt good to get in a rhythm and block everything else out. I was so focused. It was a good feeling.
"This is pretty much my perfect day. I was looking forward to this all of last season."
The Panthers played clean defense behind Cave, something head coach Mike McGaha was happy to see.
"We needed that. We haven't played very clean or practiced very clean, either," McGaha said. "I was happy to face that lineup. Every one of them put the ball in play. We had to make plays behind our guy."
Matt Martin was 2-for-3 at the plate for PV with a two-run triple and a single.
Cave helped himself with an RBI-double while the bottom half of the order also produced, helped in part by five Uintah errors.
The Panthers will face Los Lunas at 2 p.m. today. Los Lunas defeated Artesia 13-0 earlier in the day Thursday.
"I don't know anything about Los Lunas. I scouted them this morning and they swing the bats well. They are a big, physical team," McGaha said. "It is early in the season and we are more concerned about establishing our rotation and lineup. We aren't worried about anyone else. I do think it is a nice matchup because, as long as I have been coach at PV, I don't think we have ever played them."
The Scorpions had no trouble getting past Hope Christian 13-5 on Thursday.
Matt Huffhines pitched well in his debut fresh off a stellar basketball season.
He lasted 3 2-3 innings and allowed five hits and three runs — one earned — while striking out two.
"He is a bulldog. He goes right after guys. He thinks he is King Kong, even though he is 4-foot-2," joked FHS head coach Sean Trotter about his lefty starter. "He had only thrown three bullpens and hadn't faced a live hitter. It was good to get him out against a good lineup and let him work out some bugs."
Trotter hoped the Scorpions (3-2) would put Hope Christian away via 10-run rule earlier in the game, but he was satisfied with the win against a good Huskies team.
Ethan Spellbring pitched well in relief of Huffhines, going three innings and striking out three while allowing just two hits.
"He came in and threw strikes. It was his first chance to face live hitters, so it was a big positive for us," Trotter said.
The bottom of the Scorps lineup produced in bunches.
Tyler Stock was 2-for-2 before being pinch hit for by Frankie Gutierrez, who singled and reached third on a two-base error in his first at-bat of the season.
Landon Nelson was 2-for-4 with an RBI while Huffhines was 1-for-2 with two walks, a single and an RBI at the plate.
The Scorpions had 15 hits in the game.
"We are pretty confident with everyone on our bench. We have had good production out of the lower half of the lineup so far this year. Some guys have been hot and cold, and the bottom part of the order has carried us in our three wins so far this year," Trotter said.
Farmington will face district foe Aztec in the semifinals at 4:30 p.m. today.
"Playing a district team this early isn't something you look for, but we want to play the best teams we can. Aztec and PV are two of the best teams in 4A. Certainly PV, but Aztec should be right in the mix so it is good for us," Trotter said. "Aztec did us a favor by jumping into the tournament in January when another team bailed.
"Aztec certainly has the best pitching staff it had had in a long time. With Tyson Curley on the mount, they have a chance to beat anybody in the country. He is pretty good."
Curley will get the start today for Aztec against the Scorpions.
The Tigers are flying under the radar early this year after recent years of struggles. These Tigers have definitely improved, but Alexander doesn't mind his team not gaining recognition this early.
"Statewide, we aren't getting any recognition. That is fine. We don't want it right now. We want it at the year," Alexander said. "We have had these kids for three years now in summer and high school ball. They want to play. The teams in the past, there were only a handful of kids who wanted to play. This year, the whole team is buying into what we are doing. We hope to sneak up on some teams this year. We are in the Mecca of baseball in the Four Corners. If we can put up a game against Farmington, it will show the rest of the state that Aztec is for real."
John Livingston may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.