28-6A baseball filled with early highlights

By Pat Turner

The early stages of the baseball season have gone well for O’Connor, Clark, Stevens and Brennan.

Not only have the four teams looked impressive in tournament play, they share the early District 28-6A lead with 2-0 records.

The co-leaders realize there’s plenty of baseball to be played before being declared district champions or landing a playoff spot. However, the quick start has created plenty of excitement.

“We’re playing pretty well,” O’Connor coach David Collenback said. “This is a good group. We have a lot more experience with eight returning starters. That helps.”

O’Connor (10-3-1) went 3-2 in the Comal Tournament over the weekend. Prior to that, the Panthers flexed their muscle in a 12-5 zapping of Warren in 28-6A action.

The Panthers struck quickly with Jackson Blietz following Mauro Bustamante and Christian Estrada’s singles with a three-run home run.

The Panthers tacked on another run in the second on Kevin Potts’ RBI triple, before adding three runs in the third.

Blietz, who came a double shy from hitting for the cycle, began the inning with a triple. He came home on Justin Singletary’s sacrifice fly. After a walk, Walker Jordan unloaded a two-run homer for an 8-0 lead.

The offensive output continued with more runs in the next two innings.

“We’re playing with a lot more confidence,” Blietz said. “We’re hitting the ball. This is an experienced team. We played a lot last year and it helps to have been there before.”

Clark

Clark (9-2-1), which went 4-1 in the Comal Tournament, also came into this season with more experience and confidence.

Despite a young look last year, the Cougars reached the playoffs and began by sweeping Smithson Valley, before losing to Region IV champion Reagan.

Clark coach Aldo Velazquez believes that experience has made a difference in the early going of this season.

“Being in the playoffs was good for us,” Velazquez said. “We learned a lot. We lost to Reagan and I think they realized what they have to do to get better. I really like their work ethic.”

Clark showed that spark during a 5-2 win over Taft (5-5-1, 1-1).

The Cougars leaped to a quick 2-0 lead on Jaykub Rayfield’s two-run homer in the first.

Taft tied the score in the bottom of the frame on a two-run blast of its own from Ashton Ford.

However, the Cougars pulled away in the third when Aiden Falkiewicz doubled and Ryan Silva and Benny Portillo lined RBI singles, before another run cross the plate on a fielding error.

During that time, Rayfield kept the Raiders’ batters under control, scattering seven hits and striking out eight batters while relying on strong defensive backing.

“That was a big win,” Velazquez said. “Taft has been playing really well. Our pitching and defense helped. We had some clutch hits.”

Stevens had a tight contest with Holmes (0-10, 0-2) but overcame a 1-0 deficit to grab a 4-2 win.

The Falcons (9-3), who claimed the Southwest ISD Tournament title with a 5-0 run, tied the score in the third on a fielding error and gained the advantage with three runs in the fourth.

Singles by Gabriel Casanova and Christian Rodriguez, along with a Holmes miscue, set up Joseph Lopez’s two-run single.

The Falcons added another run in the seventh on Pete Bustamante’s sacrifice fly.

Jonathan Perez and Joseph Lopez secured Stevens’ pitching. Perez tossed a five-hitter with nine strikeouts through 4 2/3 innings before Lopez closed out the game by allowing one base runner.

Brennan

Brennan (7-4) took advantage of seven hits and 12 walks for a 10-1 victory over Jay (3-6, 0-2).

Jimmy Vale (2 for 3) and Jalen Thomas, who knocked in two runs, paced the offense.

Pitching was sound for Brennan. Esteban Gonzalez hurled a one-hitter through six innings with six strikeouts, before Michael Cuevas put a cap on the game in the seventh.

Brandeis

Brandeis (4-5, 1-1) got into the win column after squeezing out a 2-1 victory over Marshall (1-6, 0-2).

The Broncos and Rams were locked in a pitcher’s duel with James Cardenas tossing a one-hitter with eight strikeouts for Brandeis, while Cristian Aguilar delivered a gutsy performance for Marshall.

Ty Fontenot’s solo homer gave Brandeis a 1-0 lead in the third, but Marshall used a single from Ben Klar and a dropped pop to tie the score in the fifth.

The Broncos manufactured what turned out to be the winning run in the sixth.

Cardenas got things started with a single. Fontenot moved him to second on a sacrifice bunt, and  reached first when the Rams mishandled the play.

Oscar Cardenas then dropped an RBI single into left.

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