PREP SUMMER BASEBALL
SPOKANE – Martin Gonzalez twirled a three-hitter to lead the Sunnyside Grizzly 17U summer baseball team to a 3-2 victory over Great Falls, Mont. during the 33rd annual Spokane Wood Bat Classic.
The pitchers’ duel saw the Grizzlies muster just one hit of their own, but Sunnyside made the most of Great Falls’ fielding and pitching control issues. Trailing 2-1 heading into the bottom of the sixth, Sunnyside plated two runs to snag a 3-2 lead heading into the seventh and final frame.
In the seventh, Great Falls nicked Gonzalez for a walk and base hit to put runners on the corners with one out.
That’s when the Sunnyside hurler proved clutch. He calmly scooped up an attempted suicide squeeze and threw the Great Falls runner out at the plate. The next batter coaxed a 2-2 count against Gonzalez, only to go down on a called third strike.
“We had been working with Martin this summer on working through pressure situations,” said Sunnyside Manager Dave Martinez. “He faced a lot of pressure in that game and nailed it.”
The victory over Great Falls came in Sunnyside’s third of four games at the classic over the long July 4 weekend.
Sunnyside opened the tourney in thrilling fashion, a 9-8 loss in overtime to a squad from Post Falls, Idaho.
Erick Heisey went the distance in the opener for Sunnyside. He was nicked for eight runs in the first three innings, then pitched four frames of shutout baseball to keep the Grizzlies in contention.
“Erick had been gone for a week-and-a-half working at a youth camp, so it took him a couple of innings to get his fastball going,” Martinez said.
Down 8-0 heading into the home half of the third, Sunnyside got back in the game with a seven-run rally.
Gonzalez had a clutch, two RBI triple to spark the Grizzlies in the third. Matthew Miller and Elias Romero also knocked in runs during the rally. Miller smacked two hits for the game.
“Several times at the tourney we got down and battled back,” Martinez said. “For me, that’s one of the big signs that the boys are starting to believe in themselves.”
Sunnyside was able to tie the game and force extra innings, before the Post Falls team finally put the Grizz away with a score in the eighth inning.
Also at the wood bat tourney, Sunnyside lost 7-4 to West Valley of Spokane, with A.J. Muniz and Jacob Mendoza sharing pitching duties. Mendoza came on in relief in the second inning and pitched shutout ball the rest of the way.
Gonzalez was 2-for-3 at the plate against West Valley, while teammate Damon Hurst was 1-for-2 and drew a pair of walks.
The Grizzlies lost 12-9 to a team from British Columbia. In the fifth inning, Sunnyside’s eighth grade reliever, Ryan Hernandez, threw one pitch – resulting in a line-drive out – to get Sunnyside out of a bases loaded jam.
In the top of the sixth inning, Sunnyside rallied from a 10-3 deficit against the B.C. squad for a five-run outburst, but the Grizzlies could get no closer.
Noe Ruiz and Timmy Martinez had three and two hits, respectively, against British Columbia. Both also drove in a run.
Against British Columbia pitching, Sunnyside’s Zavian Sustaita showed patience at the plate in coaxing three walks, leading to a pair of runs scored.
“That’s big for him, he’s usually a free swinger,” said Martinez. “For him to be that disciplined at the plate is great.”
Martinez notes that during summer ball Sunnyside batters will end up with 60 or 70 at bats by season’s end. “It helps us see the ball that much better…we’re getting ourselves into good hitting counts.”
He said the wood bat requirement at Spokane last weekend was also a good training ground for the start of the high school season next March. “It makes us focus on our short game. We have to run the bases and bunt and take advantage of what the defense gives us,” Martinez said.
Sunnyside (3-20) closes out the summer campaign with a tourney at East Valley beginning this coming Thursday.