STANFIELD — At the Devin Bailey baseball magic show in Stanfield on Friday, Bailey did his best to make his pitches disappear. Mere feet — sometimes just inches — in front of the plate, the balls would break their normal trajectory. They dropped instantly as if jerked through a hidden trapdoor.
The trick left the Sherman County batters shackled, frozen with the bats on their shoulders, unable to create a Houdini-like escape.
Bailey the Magnificent led the Tigers to an 8-1 victory in the first game of a Special District 6 doubleheader Friday by striking out 12 batters. Nine of those went down without a fight to Bailey’s colossal curveball.
The Sherman County (2-15, 1-6 SD6) battery would agree. With Bailey in the game, the Huskies managed four hits and scored just once. That came on a fourth-inning leadoff single which moved around the bases with productive outs. The ball never left the infield.
Bailey’s 12 strikeouts all came in the first five innings for Stanfield (9-6, 5-2 SD6), including four in the fifth inning. With two strikeout victims down, a curveball produced so much movement that even catcher Devin Haefer was fooled and a dropped third strike put the No. 9 hitter on base. Unfazed, Bailey K’d Kyle Weatheral to end the inning.
“His curveball is phenomenal,” said Sherman County’s Ben Holliday, who struck out twice against Bailey. “You didn’t think it would be a strike but it always was.”
Stanfield built a 7-0 lead in the first three innings. First baseman Michael Martinez drove in four of those runs, three on one swing on a double in the third inning.
But Stanfield only collected five hits. Three of them went to Bailey. The pitcher finished a home run short of the cycle and reached base four times. He also stole three bases.
STANFIELD 5, SHERMAN COUNTY 4 — In the second game of the doubleheader, Bryce Linker threw six strong innings as Stanfield took a 5-3 lead into the seventh and final inning. There Devin Haefer had to concoct some magic of his own.
Haefer loaded the bases with one out, allowing a run, before striking out a batter and inducing a ground out. A fielder’s choice clinched the victory and allowed Haefer to exhale.
“It’s a crazy feeling, it’s nuts. I don’t pitch that often so it was like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Haefer, a catcher by trade trying to do his best closer impersonation.
The final out came on a sharply hit grounder up the middle that brought shortstop Ross Mendiola to his knees. Unable to make a strong throw to first, Mendiola flipped the ball to the second baseman to beat the runner sliding in by a fraction of a second.
“You pretty much have to clutch up and he just had to get us a ground ball. And Haefer did,” Mendiola said.
It didn’t feel that simple for Haefer, though, who threw nearly as many balls as strikes in his cardiac inning.
“I just told them thank you,” an exasperated Haefer said of his defense.
Offensively, Devin Bailey singled in his first at bat of Game 2 and the Huskies decided they were done with his wizardry. Sherman County intentionally walked him in his next two at bats.
Bailey had never been intentionally walked before, he said, and found it quite amusing.
“I could have walked up there without a bat — twice,” a chuckling Bailey said.
Stanfield’s Linker struck out eight batters in his starting pitching effort. He said his style contrasted with Bailey’s curveball-filled game earlier. Only the fastball produced swings and misses for Linker, so he stuck with that as long as possible.
Linker also hit three singles and knocked in two RBIs at the plate.
Ben Holliday matched Linker on the mound for the Huskies after a rough first inning when he allowed three runs and was called for three balks. The pitcher settled in after that to pitch a complete game in the loss and struck out 13 batters.
But the run support wasn’t there for Holliday. The Huskies tried to energize their offense with motion in the third inning when leadoff batter Zack Smith stole third base and then home for the team’s first run.
“He wasn’t really looking at me so I started getting off quite a bit,” Smith said. “I saw that opening and I just decided to go.”
The constant motion got in Linker’s head. He threw a pair of wild pitches in the inning that allowed another runner to score.