AP NEWS

Mustangs go 4-0 in Route 66 Classic

March 16, 2019

NEEDLES —The Needles High School Mustangs went 4-0 in the Route 66 Classic baseball tournament over the weekend; winning both of their games on March 7 and one each on March 8 and 9.

The classic is played on fields at Needles and River Valley high schools. The season-opening tournament was described as essentially a ‘round robin’ format; overall scores were not kept for all teams.

The Mustangs’ first game, on March 7, was against Monument Valley High School. That ended in a score of 10-0. The Mustangs started the game on defense with Nathan Parker being the first pitcher to face the Monument Valley batters. Monument Valley was able to get players to the first and third base but Parker was able to compose himself and throw strike three for the final out.

When the Mustangs went up to bat they broke the score open, putting up nine runs in the bottom of the first inning.

The Mustangs had patience at the plate which resulted in batters being walked. A couple of batters got hit by a pitch, which gave them even more free bases.

When the Mustangs were able to connect with a pitch they made sure to run the bases with intensity and get to the bag before the throw was made.

In the top and bottom of the second and third both the Mustangs and Monument Valley went three up and three down.

The Mustangs closed out the game in the top of the fourth when one of their players on third base was able to get home off a base hit.

“It is hard to keep focus in these kinds of games but we stress individual goals because there are individual records to set and averages to keep up,” said Ken Parker, Mustangs baseball head coach. “We tell the boys to not lose their focus because even though this is our game it could hurt them when it comes down to getting an all-league or all state award at the end of the year.”

The Mustangs’ second game against the Camp Verde Cowboys was an entirely different game.

“We knew that Camp Verde was going to bring a tough squad to the tournament,” said Parker. “We knew that if we threw more strikes we would be all right because we’ve got a good defense backing up our pitcher.”

The Mustangs once again started on defense, this time with Dawsen Yeager on the mound. Yeager was able to get three outs for the Mustangs without giving up any runs. The Mustangs started batting but they weren’t able to get anything going as they went three up and three down.

In the third inning, the Cowboys started connecting with the pitches and were getting on base. With runners in scoring positions, the Cowboys were able to get five runs in the inning, taking the lead. Coach Parker made a switch at pitcher, bringing in Jacob Chavez and having Yeager go to third base. It was a tough situation for Chavez with two runners on base but he only needed one out to close the inning. He was able to get the last out and didn’t allow any more base runs.

The Mustangs didn’t show quit and at the bottom of the third, they were able to get two runs to make it 5-2.

“We put ourselves in a hole by giving up three runs off two walks but we knew that if we kept on working we could come back from the deficit,” said Parker.

The Cowboys were up to bat again but the Mustangs defense was able to get three outs without giving up a run. At the bottom of the fourth inning, it looked like the Mustangs were going to lose the game because there were two outs. However, the Mustangs kept on hitting and closed the gap to 5-4. Parker was up to bat with two Mustangs on base, the pitch came and he hit it hard to the wall at midfield which brought in both base runners to win the game 6-5.

In their third game, played on March 8, the Mustangs had another comfortable win beating Joshua Springs 13-1.

“Games like this can get the team out of sync since it is a lopsided affair but our goal today was to stay focused,” said Parker.

The Mustangs, at the bottom of the first, got on top 5-0 with good base running, good hitting and a couple mistakes that Joshua Tree made. When it was time for the Mustang to play some defense they were spot on with their throwing and pitching, only allowing one Joshua Tree runner on base. The Mustangs were on offense again in the bottom of the seventh and added seven more runs to make it 12-0 and keep a tight hold of the game.

“With these games, we can put our younger guys out in the field to see get them some reps and playing time,” said Parker. “They got in there and did their jobs in order for them to shake off their first game jitters.”

In the top of the third inning, the Mustangs lost a little bit of their focus on the game and allowed one run to go in. But once they regained their focus and composure they were able to get the third out and go back on offense. In the top of the fourth, the Mustangs added one run to make it 13-1 to end the game.

“These two days the boys had lots of opportunities in executing and getting better doing their individual jobs,” said Parker. “It’s been a good two days of baseball and we just want to build off that to get a good start once the league starts.”

Note: Local sports photographer Robert L. Hancock reported and Coach Ken Parker confirmed the Mustangs ended a 4-0 sweep in the tournament with a 9-0 win over Holbrook on Saturday. Parker commented the sweep was a good start for the young team. - ed.