Great start for Aztec baseball
On Thursday, the Aztecs opened their season with a game against Jurupa Hills in the San Gorgonio Tournament, and came away with a 6-0 victory. It was a promising jump out of the gate for a squad that went 7-15 overall last year, 2-10 in the Desert Sky League, and this time around is hoping to be a contender.
The Aztecs effectively got all they’d need by scoring a run in the top of the first inning. For good measure, they went on to add three in the third, and two more in the seventh.
While many players contributed to the fine effort, a standout performance was given by pitcher Austin Willis. The Aztec sophomore went all seven innings and allowed just one hit, while walking just one and striking out nine. It was a particularly impressive showing since Willis missed most of his freshman year with an injury.
It wasn’t exactly what head coach Roland Fite was expecting to see...but he’s not complaining.
“He’s a very good prospect,” said Fite of the 6’5” sophomore hurler. “I knew Austin had good stuff, but it was a pleasant surprise.”
Willis got timely offensive support from a few of his teammates. Anthony Mestas went 1-for-4, drove in a run, and made some good plays at second base; Billy McCall hit an RBI double; Austin Crank singled, doubled, and drove in a run; Jordan Soto had a hit and RBI in his only at-bat, while playing well in center field; and Willis himself got into the act, going 1-for-3 with an RBI and stolen base. First baseman Marcus Madero and shortstop Colin Klein impressed with their infield defense, and catcher Storm Phillips was solid behind the plate.
The Aztecs collected six hits, including two doubles, and only struck out twice.
It all added up to a very promising start for a squad that intends to prove that it’s for real.
“We really came together, we came ready to play,” said coach Fite. “A great showing for a first time out. We got everyone in the game and everyone made a contribution.”
The returnees from last year, Willis, McCall, Soto, Mestas, Crank, Madero and Klein, are out to put the DSL on notice that they’re a team to be reckoned with. They join with seven varsity newcomers this year: seniors Robert Garcia (OF, 2B), Paul Haefele (1B, P), Johnathan Sedillo (1B, OF), Ben Perry (OF, 1B), and Austin Rose (OF), and sophomores Phillips (C, OF) and Lawrence Urtiaga (OF, C, P).
The Aztecs will start their league schedule soon, and Fite expects it to be a battle. Unlike last year, however, he thinks his team has a very good shot at being in the thick of the race.
“I think Granite Hills will be the team to beat. Victor Valley and Burroughs are usually pretty tough,” said the coach. “But if we stick to our guns, I think we have a good chance to take the league. We went 17-7 two years ago, and this time, I think we can do as good or better.”
Local fans can get their first look at the Aztecs this Tuesday, when they host Apple Valley for a 3:15 p.m. start.
“Apple Valley is rebuilding, and it’s a non-league game, but none of that matters,” said coach Fite. “We won’t let up just because it’s a non-leaguer. We take every game seriously.”
After other non-DSL matches against Highland, San Gorgonio and Big Bear, the Aztecs begin their league games on March 22 at Granite Hills. Burroughs comes to town five days later.