The Sunnyside High School baseball team opened 2008 on the right track yesterday, Tuesday, with a 3-2 home win over Hermiston, Ore.
The Grizzlies' fast start is a contrast to 2007, when the team endured a winless season.
Sunnyside (1-0) earned the win despite missing four starters due to eligibility issues.
"The reserves started and did extremely well," said Coach Terry Shines. "They were swinging and made contact, they played good defense."
Two of the super subs that saw significant playing time yesterday were Chance Graff, called up just the day before from the junior varsity, and Oscar Hernandez. Shines said Graff played a good defensive game at first base for the Grizzlies, and Hernandez stole two bases and scored two of Sunnyside's three runs.
The first Grizzly run came in the first inning, when Hernandez drew a walk, stole second and came around to score on a base hit by Buddha Palomarez.
The visiting Bulldogs tied things up in the second frame, but Sunnyside grabbed the lead back for good with two runs in the third. Hernandez, a sophomore, was again the sparkplug in drawing a walk, stealing second and coming around to score when Palomarez reached base via an error. Palomarez then scored the deciding run when starting pitcher Gibby Briones reached base on a fielding error.
Frankie Salcedo relieved Briones in the fifth and issued a Hermiston run due, in part, to a pair of balks.
Down 3-2 the Bulldogs had a chance to knot the score in the sixth inning, but Salcedo shut the door after Hermiston got a runner to third base.
Salcedo then secured the save in the seventh by striking out the side.
In recording the win, Briones set six Hermiston batters down on strikes. Salcedo set down seven on strikeouts.
Shines said Sunnyside played good defense in backing up its ace pitchers, and Grizzly batters did just enough to secure the win in collecting four hits for the game.
"They're taking their hacks and hit some hard ground balls," said Shines, who noted that Tim Taylor and Hector Mendez both hit doubles.
Getting that first win was a boost for the Grizzlies, he added.
"They were excited," Shines said. "It was like, wow, we're not that bad."
With Briones and Salcedo throwing heat in the mid-80s, Shines believes the Grizzlies have a good chance to make the post-season.
His players share the optimism.
"They can see us fighting for a playoff spot," the coach said. "But we have to make plays behind them (Briones and Salcedo) and hit the ball."
One game does not a season make, of course, and the 3A Grizzlies won't have long to enjoy the win as they travel to 1A Riverview today (Wednesday), which knocked off Sunnyside last year.
Shines says his players still need discipline at the plate in keeping their weight back and throwing the barrel of the bat to the ball.
The coach added that his team will need more than two pitchers to make it through grueling two-a-week doubleheaders once league play gets in full swing.
To that end, Shines said Palomarez, Cameron Boboth and Tristan Abbott will all get ample time on the mound at Riverview today to prep them for their possible key roles as relief pitchers to spell Briones and Salcedo. "Our relievers are looking good," the coach observed.
Sunnyside opens league play at Kamiakin this Friday.