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Panthers overcome 4-0 deficit, five errors to top FHS

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FARMINGTON – A bumpy week for the Piedra Vista baseball team ended smoothly when the Panthers topped Farmington 9-7 on Saturday to earn their seventh consecutive district championship.

PV shook off a 4-0 deficit to down its District 1-5A foes in a sloppy game that saw the teams commit five errors apiece. The Panthers managed to escape Ricketts Park by breaking a 7-7 tie with two runs in the bottom of the sixth.

It's been an unlucky season for PV (17-9, 6-2 District 1-5A), according to coach Mike McGaha, which has lost five games by just one run, including losses in recent days to Miyamura and Aztec. McGaha said he's been telling his players to play as if they'll never get a break.

"We had three hard-hit balls go for outs in the first inning alone," McGaha said. "I mean, it's been a season where we see our opponents benefit from two, three, four infield singles, and then we have to smash balls to get them to fall. I just keep telling the guys that that's how our season's gone, so don't let it suffocate you. Keep on hitting the ball hard."

The third inning featured nine runs scored — four by Farmington (11-15, 5-3) in the top half and then five from host PV in the bottom half. Catcher Andrew Caliendo helped dig the Panthers out of the 4-0 hole with a two-RBI single during PV's five-run rally. Farmington's poor defensive play hurt starter Bryce Washburn.

"Bryce certainly got into trouble, but had we gotten that routine ground ball out to start the inning, maybe it's a different story," Scorps coach Sean Trotter said.

The Panthers weren't without their share of blunders on defense, as center fielder-turned-shortstop Kyle DeWees committed three errors from his position. Two of his errors helped FHS erase a 7-4 deficit in the top of the sixth.

"Just like a hitter can get into a slump, Kyle's been in a little bit of a slump defensively," McGaha said. "We've got two varsity outfielders playing in the middle infield, so that's what we're working with."

PV starting pitcher Elijah Gamboa wasn't bad on Saturday — only one of the Scorps' seven runs was charged to him — but he was lifted during Farmington's three-run, sixth-inning rally in favor of Orlan Warren, who wound up earning the win.

To open the bottom of the sixth, Scorps reliever Lane Hagstrom threw four straight balls to PV's No. 8 hitter, Colton Foster, who would later score on a Caliendo RBI single.

Trotter said his team has been better lately, having won four straight games before Saturday, but made far too many mistakes to extend that streak.

"When you climb back into it, you can't go out and walk the eight hole and expect to be successful," Trotter said. "We walked five batters today, and three came around to score. And then we had the five errors, so just not a good way to end a good week."

Caliendo and Logan Klunder combined to drive in five Panther runs.

Though he was shaky on the bump, Farmington's Washburn was solid from the dish with a double, a run scored and an RBI sacrifice fly in the loss.

Aztec (18-7, 6-2) would have won the district on the run-differential tiebreaker rule had Farmington beaten PV, but instead the Tigers settled for a second-place finish in 1-5A.

The state playoff seeding will be released at 4 p.m. today. Trotter said he's almost certain his team will be starting on the road. McGaha said he hopes to snag a second, third or fourth seed and admitted he isn't sure what to expect out of his team when the tourney kicks off next week.

"I haven't found the right formula to get this group fully prepared for a game," McGaha said. "I absolutely wouldn't be shocked to see us lose another game by one run, and I also wouldn't be surprised to see us reel off six wins in a row and win the whole thing."

Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577. 

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