Three Naches Valley pitchers combined to post a 6-0 non-league shutout over the Sunnyside Grizzly baseball team Tuesday afternoon.
The loss, Sunnyside's second of the season in as many outings, ruined a spectacular outing by Grizzly ace Joel Zakahi. The senior threw four shutout innings of his own, while scattering just two hits and fanning five along the way.
"Joel dominated the first four innings," said Sunnyside Coach Dave Martinez, noting that Zakahi focused on spotting his fast ball while mixing in a rare slider.
On a pitch count, Zakahi was pulled from the mound to open the fifth. That's when the Rangers erupted for all six of their runs.
But in defense of reliever B.J. Miller, only three of the six runs Naches scored were earned. The Grizzlies committed three errors in the frame, two of which came on the same play and allowed Naches to gain momentum.
Miller (0-1), who absorbed the loss, yielded four hits to the Rangers in the top of the fifth and recorded just one out before Martinez replaced him on the hill with Gibby Briones. The sophomore gave up just one more run to Naches in the fifth, and held the Rangers scoreless in the sixth.
Martinez said Briones will be called upon this season to get the Grizzlies out of jams in the middle and late innings.
"Yesterday, he pitched very well for us," Martinez said. "He only allowed two hits in his one and two-third innings of work."
Junior Ryan Engel mopped up the pitching chores for Sunnyside, hurling a scorless seventh while facing only three batters.
The goose eggs Naches limited the Grizzlies to on the Sunnyside side of the scoreboard was the result of strong pitching, as well as flawless play in the field.
Zach Swart got the start for the Rangers, and in his three innings of work he struck out four and didn't allow a hit. A southpaw, Swart kept his pitches on the outside corner of the plate, and it worked to perfection as Sunnyside's hitters couldn't get the meat of their bats on the ball.
Freshman Don Forgey pitched the fourth and fifth frames for Naches, and displaying a good fast ball he held the Grizzlies to just one hit each inning. Smith closed for the Rangers, making the shutout stand up with scoreless relief in the sixth and seventh innings.
Of the three hits Sunnyside managed yesterday, two came off the bat of Cole Boboth. He broke up the Rangers' no-hit bid in the bottom of the fourth with a single, slapping another single in the sixth. The Grizzlies' one other hit, a single in the bottom of the fifth, was put into play by catcher Zach Marquez.
Despite coming up on the short end of 14-4 and 6-0 scores in their only two games of the season, Martinez said there isn't any concerns thus far with the Grizzlies' ability to garner hits.
"We just need to keep on getting our hacks," he said.
Right now, he added, it's all about situational baseball...doing the right things at the right time.
"I really feel like we have a special group of kids this year," Martinez said, noting that expectations are running high for a strong finish in Mid-Valley League play.
Sunnyside continues its non-league schedule with a single game at Quincy this coming Thursday. Boboth, penciled in as the Grizzlies' No. 2 starter this season, will get the start against the Jackrabbits. Martinez said he's hoping to get five strong innings of work from Boboth.
Sunnyside continues its non-league schedule by hosting Bellingham this coming Saturday, with a start time of 10 a.m.
Naches 0 0 0 0 6 0 0 -6 8 0
S'side 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -0 3 3
WP-Forgey. LP-Miller (0-1).
Swart, Forgey (4), Smith (6) and Beltan. Zakahi, Miller (5), Briones (5), Engel (7) and Marquez. Sunnyside highlights: Boboth 2/3, Marquez 1/2.