FARMINGTON — Jake Taylor saw action a bit different from the norm when he took the mound for Strike Zone tonight at Ricketts Park.
Taylor, who graduated from Aztec High School this spring, was effective and efficient throughout the game and earned a 9-4 win over the Flat Bill Ducks, which is made up primarily of Aztec players.
“It was a good time pitching against them,” Taylor said. “I went into the game with the idea that I was going to strike them all out. It was fun playing against them, especially getting the win.”
Strike Zone assistant Damion Lovato said sending Taylor to the mound was a premeditated move.
“It was part of the plan. We asked him if he wanted the game and he stepped up to the challenge,” Lovato said. “It was kind of cool to see him and his brother (Zach Taylor) going at it. Throwing against his former teammates brings up that rivalry a little bit more.”
Jake Taylor said he tried to put a little extra on his pitches when his brother, an incoming sophomore at Aztec, was in the batter’s box.
After giving up one run in the top of the first, Strike Zone took command of the game, batting through the lineup and scoring five runs in the bottom half of the inning while the Ducks committed two errors.
Flat Bill coach Brett Alexander said part of his team’s defensive struggles were the result of not having one of its regular catchers behind the plate as Gabe Valdez is on vacation with his family and Spencer Hayden is dealing with an injury.
Strike Zone added to its lead in the bottom of the second, again batting through the lineup and scoring four runs in the inning.
“They were finding their pitches, being really patient at the plate and doing exactly what we taught them to do,” Lovato said. “The biggest thing is our approach has to keep getting better as we get closer to the City Tournament, and in those first two innings we showed what we’re capable of doing.”
Following the second inning, the Ducks settled in behind pitcher Jaden Cruz, an incoming freshman at Aztec who entered the game after the first inning and kept Strike Zone’s lineup relatively quiet the rest of the way.
Flat Bill added one run in the third inning, then tacked on two more in the fifth before Taylor and closer Zach Van Duran finished things off.
Eight-hole hitter David Saldivar finished the game with three runs batted in for Strike Zone. Kelton McCoy and Garrett Farmer drove in two runs each.
With just a couple of weeks before the City Tournament begins, Lovato and Alexander said the focus for their teams will be solidifying the starting lineups for the tourney.
“We’re getting last minute evaluations and deciding who’s going to be in the starting lineup for the first game of the tournament," Lovato said. "Everybody is producing in their own way, so it’s going to be difficult for us (to decide). Everyone is having good at-bats and our pitchers are throwing strikes, and that’s our biggest thing.”
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.