BARSTOW • The Barstow High School baseball team appeared poised to prevent a sweep by Granite Hills on Friday — that was until the bottom of the third inning.
The Aztecs fell 7-3 to the Cougars in the third and final meeting between the Desert Sky League opponents this season. Granite Hills remained a perfect 6-0 in the DSL while Barstow slipped to 1-5. Any spectators that may have left after the top of the third inning would never have seen the loss coming.
Barstow came out quick and took a 3-0 lead after the first two innings with an RBI hit from Lucas Crank, Tyler Fulghum's run off a Cougar error and a sacrifice fly from Robert Duran that brought Anthony Maestas home.
"We were looking good," Barstow coach Roland Fite said. "We had the game in our control. It was one of the first times our bats were working early."
In addition to it's own offensive output Barstow effectively shut down a dynamic Granite Hills offense, that is averaging nearly eight runs a game, through the first three innings. The Aztecs played a solid defensive game with no errors in the first three innings, and even put together a 9-3 double play in the first inning. Barstow pitcher Billy McCall had five strike outs, no walks and had only allowed five scoreless hits when Barstow headed for the dugout to start it's third at bat.
Granite Hills sent left-handed pitcher Zach Willis to the mound to relieve Cory Brooks to start the third inning. Willis silenced Barstow's bats only giving up a single in the third inning. He would go on to pitch nine strike outs, walk one batter and give up two hits while holding the Aztecs scoreless for the remainder of the game.
"It's our philosophy starting off that if we feel someone isn't getting the job done during a game then we have other pitchers that can come in and get us right back where we want to be," Granite Hills coach Tyler Scurlock said about his early pitching change. "I knew we had a lefty ready in relief and hoped he'd throw them off a bit. Zach came in and had an outstanding performance."
The Cougars carried the momentum from their first defensive stand into their next at bat hammering the Aztecs for four hits including a two-run home run by Niko Saavedra as well a walk and error that set up runs. Granite Hills led 5-3 by the end of the fourth inning and the Cougars' Sam Johnson's solo home run in the fifth inning proved to be the emotional nail in the coffin for Barstow on Friday.
The Aztecs also led the Cougars early before giving up a 5-2 loss in the teams' first meeting on March 25. Barstow also relinquished a lead to Victor Valley on April 1 and lost 3-2.
"We were let down by that home run and a couple hits and just couldn't get back on track," Fite said. "It's a mental issue we can't just let off. We did fine out there we still made some fantastic catches later in the game. We just have a problem holding a lead and battling back from being down. It's something we have to work on."
The Aztecs will host Burroughs at 3 p.m. on Wednesday before traveling to Ridgecrest for a rematch at 3 p.m. on Friday. Granite Hills will play Silverado away at 3 p.m. on Wednesday and host the Hawks at 3 p.m. on Friday.
Granite Hills 000 511 0 — 7 12 3
Barstow 210 000 0 — 3 7 4
Brooks, Willis (3) and Young; McCall, Crank (6) and Luna. WP — Willis. LP — McCall. 2B — Chambers (G); Maestas (B). HR — Johnson, Saavedra (G).