By AJ MAZZOLINI
PILOT ROCK — With Chuck Simmons delivering strikes from the mound, the Pilot Rock baseball team was near untouchable Saturday in a doubleheader with Stanfield. The bad news for the Rockets: Simmons only pitched one of the two games.
The Rockets (3-4, 1-1 SD6) split with the Tigers, besting the visitors 4-2 in the early game before Stanfield redeemed itself with a 12-2 battering in Game 2, a five-inning shortened contest. The doubleheader opened the league portion of each teams’ schedules in Special District 6.
After that, Simmons throttled up and would only allow one more hit.
After brief intermission, the Tigers came roaring out in Game 2. Haefer again got on base to start the first before the No. 2 hitter Bryce Linker crushed a home run to give his squad an early 2-0 lead. Linker would club three hits in the game.
The next inning, the Tigers scored five more and Stanfield continued to add to the lead in every inning but the third.
“We were just a completely different team in those two games,” said Stanfield’s Bailey, who slugged a home run in the fourth inning of Game 2 to go with a double. “It felt like we just got off the bus and went through the motions for the first game. The second game is how we should play in every game.”
The Tigers were aided by six Pilot Rock errors that allowed Stanfield’s rallies to get new legs even when they looked winded. The Rockets committed three errors in Stanfield’s five-run second inning and another two when the Tigers scored three in the fourth.
“That happens when you give a good team six extra outs,” Pilot Rock coach Chris Byrd said about the Tigers scoring in bunches.
It wasn’t all Pilot Rock favors that kept Stanfield in the scoring loop. Of the Tigers’ 10 hits, six were for extra bases. The top three batters in the order combined to go 7 for 10 at the plate.
The run support was more than enough for Linker, who pitched the full five innings for the Tigers. The senior picked up the win.
The highlight for the Rockets at the dish came from the No. 9 spot in the lineup and Zack Stai. The senior picked up the only extra base hit in the second contest for Pilot Rock — a second-inning RBI double.
Stai brought in three of the runs from Game 1 as well.
“I was trying to take it one pitch at a time instead of thinking about where you’re at in the count, even if it’s two strikes down,” said Stai, who knocked in a pair on a full pitch count in Game 1. “You don’t want to put yourself under too much pressure.”
Stanfield didn’t get many batters on base in the early game, so when they got the opportunity in the late game, Stanfield coach Bryan Johnson put the boys in motion to manufacture more runs. Everyone was on call for a hit and run, including big first baseman Michael Martinez who had a clean steal coming at second base before a foul ball at the plate erased his mad dash.
Pilot Rock wasn’t so lucky on the base paths with Haefer, the Stanfield catcher, gunning down thieves. When the Rockets’ Austin Weinke tried to swipe second base in the third inning, Haefer blasted him with his arm cannon.
A stolen base is a point of pride for any player, but Haefer — who moved into scoring position with a steal before coming home in the fourth inning — said the feeling is even more wonderful as a catcher.
“It’s great throwing people out and it feels just as great stealing on other people,” Haefer said. “It shows who’s the most dominant.”