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Photo by Chelsea Buchanan
The Sultans' Nick Roberts (23) is out at second base, as Aztecs' shortstop Colin Klein makes the play in Tuesday's game at Barstow High School.

Another close loss for Aztecs

BARSTOW • In many respects, Tuesday’s baseball game at Barstow High School was similar to the Aztecs’ previous home game, last Thursday.


To begin with, both were one-run losses for the home team. Last Thursday was a 2-1 game against Victor Valley, and this latest one a 3-2 loss to Sultana. There were also two hits in the Aztecs final at-bat, but in both cases, it proved not enough to get Barstow the win.


The biggest similarity, though, was in missed opportunities. The Aztecs left eight runners on base in the close loss to the Jackrabbits, and this time around, six were left stranded, including a bases-loaded situation with no runs scored in the third inning.


It’s all getting a little too familiar for Aztecs head coach Roland Fite.


“We need to bring it in earlier. We’re getting comfortable later in the game when we should be doing that in the beginning,” he said after the loss to the Sultans. “We need to be aggressive from the start, get on base any way we can and get the runners in.”


Austin Willis pitched another good game, but had only a loss to show for it. He gave up a single to the game’s first batter, but was rescued by the pitcher’s best friend, a 4-6-3 double play, Anthony Mestas to Colin Klein to Paul Haefele, on the next play. Willis then induced a ground out for a 1-2-3 first.


The Aztecs had their first scoring opportunity in the bottom half of the frame, but couldn’t convert. Billy McCall and Willis hit back-to-back one-out singles, but were left on first and second after a pair of strikeouts by the Sultans’ Nick Roberts.


Sultana got its first run in the third, taking advantage of the Aztecs’ only error of the game. Marcos Sanchez, who entered the contest with a .459 batting average, smacked a single to left, then moved up on a walk and a single by Josh Gooding. With the bases loaded and two out, Fernando Ortega then hit a ground ball that could have ended the inning, but a bad throw to first allowed Sanchez to score what would turn out to be a crucial run.


“Our defense was good for the most part, but we have to learn not to implode,” said Fite. “That one error cost us. We have to tighten it up.”


The Aztecs’ next opportunity came in the bottom of the third. Storm Phillips drew a lead-off walk, McCall walked with one away, and after another strikeout, Austin Crank was plunked. But with the bags juiced, a ground out ended the rally. Haefele walked with one away in the fourth, but was left at second base.


Sanchez hit an RBI single in the fifth, and Jordan Bray brought in a run with a fly out to center, giving the Sultans a 3-0 lead. It was the last threat the visitors would stage, as Mestas took over on the mound in the sixth and pitched two 1-2-3 frames.


“Mestas did great, he threw lots of off-speed curves and mixed up his pitches well,” said Fite. “Austin did well, too, except for one inning.”


Willis also did well at the plate, hitting three singles, one of which came in the final inning. Phillips got it started with a one-out walk, and Mestas followed by clubbing a pitch to deep center for a double. McCall got Phillips home with a ground out, then Willis drilled a pitch to center, and Mestas trotted home. It was suddenly a 3-2 game, but that’s as far as Barstow would take it. Ortega, who had taken over the pitching duties in the previous inning, was able to induce a ground ball, for the final out.


The Sultans used four pitchers in the win. Ortega was touched up for both runs and also gave up two hard-hit balls in the sixth. Jordan Soto and Klein tagged pitches to center and right field, respectively, but both were run down by Sultana.


Willis gave up six hits over five innings, walking three and striking out two, while Mestas also fanned two.


The loss leaves the Aztecs at 5-5 overall, while their Desert Sky League record remains at 1-2 after the non-league game.


Next up for Barstow is a Thursday match at Silverado. The Hawks are having a rough season, at 2-11, 0-3, but the records don’t mean much to Fite.


“The sad thing is, we don’t look like a 5-5 team,” said the coach. “Silverado is struggling a bit, but we can’t take them lightly. We’ll have to give them our best game.”


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