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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
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Monday, May 13, 2002

Eagles mauled by Tigers in area round of playoffs

Staff Writer

Pitching figured to be a problem spot for the Pecos Eagles going  into their area round baseball playoff games against the Frenship  Tigers. Unfortunately, the Eagles also had problems with hitting, fielding  and baserunning, and the combination produced a pair of 10-run  rule victories for the Tigers at Christensen Stadium in Midland.

Frenship touched Game 1 starter Richard Rodriguez for six runs on seven hits before the Eagles ever got to bat on Friday, and went on to a 14-2 victory. Then on Saturday, the Eagles squandered a chance at a big first inning and saw the Tigers come back with eight runs in their first two at-bats off Barney Rodriguez, who was making his first start in 3½ weeks due to a severe foot infection. Frenship went on to win the game by an 11-1 final score to complete a sweep of the best-of-three series.

Rodriguez had spent a week in the hospital due to the infection, and had just been discharged five days earlier. He missed Pecos' previous four games and sat out Friday's opener, but told Eagles' coach Bubba Williams he could pitch Game 2 on Saturday.

"I started Barney because I know they hit the fastball real well," Williams said. "If his curveball was working I thought Barney could do the job, but evidently he wasn't as strong as he thought he would be."

The junior hit leadoff batter Chad Nesteby with his first pitch, and then Blake Callaway lofted a home run off the foul poll grill in left field to wipe out Pecos' 1-0 lead. Rodriguez (7-2 on the season) got out of the inning after that, despite two walks and a single, but couldn't survive the second inning, when he walked three batters and gave up an RBI hit with one away.

Matthew Levario came on to pitch, and his control at the start wasn't any better. He was able to field Josh Braswell's harder shot back to the mound and throw out Nesteby at home, but then wild pitched Callaway home and walked two more batters to give the Tigers a 5-1 lead. Ty White singled home a sixth run, and then Rigo Ramirez booted Cody Fielding's grounder to first and then threw the ball away for a double error, allowing two more runs to score.

"Seven walks in two innings and five errors. That was the worst we've ever played except for one game this season," Williams said.

Levario would escape the third inning unscored on despite three Pecos errors, and got through the fourth allowing only one single. But Frenship scored two more runs with two outs in the fifth, then won the game under the 10-run rule with one out in the sixth on pinch hitter Jeff Tarlton's double, as Pecos' outfielders had problems getting the right angle on balls hit down the line and in the gap in left-center field.

Meanwhile, Ramirez, Richard Rodriguez and Abila were the only Eagles able to get hits in the series. The three accounted for all six hits by Pecos, three each day, with two of the three on Saturday coming in the first inning off starter Brady Campbell.

Ramirez singled to right on the first pitch of the game and Rodriguez then picked up his third straight double over two days, this one off the fence in left field. But with runners on second and third and the infield in, Campbell got Abila on a grounder to third and then struck out Freddy Torres. He also fanned Oscar Parada, but the ball got past catcher Brett Dunlap, allowing Ramirez to score.

Campbell then hit David Elkins with a pitch, but struck out Levario to end the inning. Campbell would walk six more batters before being replaced by Seth Andrews in the sixth, but surrendered only one other hit, a leadoff single by Ramirez in the third inning.

"That was a big momentum turn," Williams said. "We've got runners on second and third with no out and have got our 3-4-5 hitters up and we only get a run on a passed ball. I knew it was going to be tough right there."

In Game 1, Richard Rodriguez _ who had struggled against Colorado City and Abilene Wylie in his previous two starts at Christensen in 2000 and 2001, had another bad first inning on the Midland field. Rodriguez (4-4) gave up a lead off single to Nesteby, walked Calloway and then surrendered back-to-back doubles to Chris Richburg and Brazell. The senior then got the next two batters out, with a third run scoring for the Tigers, but Fielding followed with an RBI double and Dunlap them blooped a two-run single to right-center for a 6-0 lead.

The Eagles also didn't help themselves in either game with their baserunning. After Rodriguez' first double of the series with one out in the first on Friday, courtesy runner Javier Ramirez tried to score from second base when Richburg booted Abila's grounder. The ball ended up at the shortstop's feet and he was almost surprised enough not to throw the ball home, but did get it to Dunlap in time for the tag.

Rodriguez doubled again to lead off the fourth, and this time got to walk home when Abila lined pitcher Kris Kelley's next pitch over the fence in left for a two-run homer. Kelley then walked Ramirez and hit Parada with a pitch, but the Eagles again ran themselves out of a scoring chance, when Ramirez tried to go to third on Torres' infield pop-up.

Nesteby allowed the ball to drop and then threw to third for the tag out on Ramirez, and after a long discussion the umpires then called Parada out even though he didn't run after the ball dropped, because both he and Torres were on first base. Levario then struck out to end the inning.

Meanwhile, Frenship scored twice in the second on a Campbell home run, and after Rodriguez retired the side in order in the third he was replaced on the mound by sophomore Jose Reyes, who gave up two unearned runs in the fourth on a pair of errors and Tristan Toma's two-run double, and four more in the fifth, off a pair of bloop hits, a hit batter, wild pitch and Richburg's three-run homer, his fourth so far in the playoffs.

"When you face a good team you can't afford to make mistakes, and you've got to go out there and hit the ball and we didn't hit," said Williams, whose team lost in the area round of the Class 4A playoffs for the third straight season. Next year Pecos will drop down to District 3-4A and will return all of their starters except for seniors Abila and Richard Rodriguez.

The Eagles finish with a 22-8 record, while the Tigers improved to 24-8 and will face their district rival and Pecos' former district foe Andrews in the Region I-4A quarterfinals this week. Andrews defeated El Paso Burges, 6-1 and 8-4, in their area round playoff series.

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