Fuel overcomes errors for win over Flat Bill

Karl Schneider

FARMINGTON — Inconsistency highlighted tonight’s City League game between the Fuel and the Flat Bill Ducks.

While both sides committed errors and mental mistakes throughout the game, the two programs displayed the ability to overcome their mishaps in a back-and-forth game before the Fuel eventually pulled away for an 8-5 win at the Piedra Vista High School baseball field.

The Fuel could do little wrong through the first four innings and controlled the game with a 3-0 lead heading to the bottom of the fifth. But untimely mistakes in the inning — two dropped pop flies and a misplayed ball in center — allowed Flat Bill to tie the game at 3.

“We had a little bit of mental lapses, and playing in the sun, we lost a couple of balls, but mostly it was just little things we need to work on — routine ground balls and fly balls, and knowing the batter and where to play against him,” Fuel assistant coach Bryan Attson said. “We’re still learning, and we’re still young.”

Danny Carpenter of Fuel runs past Gabe Valdez of the Flat Bill Ducks as he struggles to get control of the ball during Wednesday's game at Piedra Vista High School.

The Fuel recaptured the lead in the top of the sixth after a two-out triple from Ian Kee drove in one run.

But two more errors from the Fuel in the bottom of the inning gave the Ducks their first lead of the game. Brandon Archuleta reached on an error and advanced to third after a Dillon Lemons double. Two batters later, with two outs, Fuel catcher JoJo Mihelich threw to second, trying to catch Lemons off the bag, but the ball sailed into center field and allowed two runs to score on the play.

The Fuel, made up of mostly incoming high school juniors or younger, showed their youth during the two innings, but the players also showed a resiliency reminiscent of their older counterparts. In the seventh inning, with one out and one runner on base, Danny Carpenter, who dropped multiple balls at second base during the fifth and sixth innings, redeemed himself with a single to put runners on the corners. Later in the inning, with two outs and the game tied 5, Jarrett Graham, who misplayed the ball in center that allowed Flat Bill to tie the game in the fifth, beat out a throw to first on a dropped third strike, which extended the inning and allowed Carpenter to score from third on the play to give his club a 6-5 lead.

“We got into a little bind and had to get our confidence back to start playing like a team again,” Attson said. “This is the first time coming back against an older team, but I believe if we give them a chance to work together, they’ll come back.”

The Fuel added two more runs in the inning to make it 8-5.

Dominic Hines of Fuel tries to get out a runner at first base during the game against the Flat Bill Ducks on Wednesday at Piedra Vista High School.

With the top of the order due up in the bottom of the seventh, the Fuel finished things off as starting pitcher Dominic Hines earned the complete-game win, throwing more than 100 pitches.

During the game, the Ducks struggled to shake off the rust that followed from having last week off, as well as only having nine players in the dugout. Despite the abundance of mistakes during the course of the game, as a result of the time off and limited resources, Flat Bill head coach Brett Alexander said he was pleased with his team’s mindset and ability to play through the struggles.

“I like the fact that we don’t get down on each other,” Alexander said. “There were situations in the game where we made some bad mistakes, but we never once got on the kids to make them feel like they’re not worth anything — because they’re kids and they’re going to make mistakes.”

Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.