By Kevin Cloe
After some early stumbles, Wickenburg High School’s baseball and girls softball teams will begin the second half of 3A West Region play next week.
Coach Gary Hodgkiss’ Wranglers split their two region contests last week -- edging River Valley, 6-4, and then losing to West Region leader Kingman Academy, 11-1. That dropped them into third place in the six-team region standings at 2-1 (4-6 for the season). They wrap up the first round with a home game against second-place Kingman that was earlier this week and then a road trip to Chino Valley this Friday.
Coach Jacob Roddy’s Lady Wranglers, meanwhile, fell to 0-3 in region action last week when they were whipped by River Valley, 21-0, and then outlasted by visiting Kingman Academy, 11-7.
They both start the second round of West play at Northwest Christian at 3:45 p.m. next Tuesday, April 9. Coach Roddy’s girls, though, will wrap up the first round by hosting Chino Valley at 3:45 p.m. this Friday, April 5.
The baseball team’s victory against River Valley required two comeback efforts. After giving up a run in the bottom of the first inning, the Wranglers tied the score in the second and then plated two runs in the fourth to take the lead.
Jeorge Hershkowitz’s two-run double drove in both runs in the fourth, but he wasn’t done yet.
After the Wranglers gave up three runs in the bottom of the fourth to fall behind again, 4-3, Hershkowitz’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly tied the score at 4-4 in the top of the sixth. Two wild pitches then allowed the Wranglers to score the eventual winning runs.
Besides Hershkowitz’s production at the plate, senior pitcher Henry Marquez provided most of the defense — recording his first mound victory with a complete-game seven-strikeout performance. He gave up only six scattered hits and walked only one. All four River Valley runs scored as a result of two Wrangler errors, meaning Marquez didn’t allow a single earned run through his seven innings of work.
And speaking of errors, the Wranglers committed seven miscues in their 11-1 loss to Kingman Academy late last week.
Senior starting pitcher Kade Peterson suffered his first loss of the season and didn’t allow a single earned run through five innings, but six Kingman Academy runs crossed the plate due to defensive lapses. He gave up five hits while striking out five and walking four.
Senior Michael Mindnich finished the final two innings on the mound, giving up five more runs … but only three of those were earned.
Senior Kegan Lindsay led the meager four-hit offensive effort with two singles, while freshman Drake Matney boosted his team-leading season batting average to .429 with his one-for-three effort at the plate. Sophomore Bryson Alder produced the only other hit with a triple that preceded him reaching home one play later.
The Wranglers will host smaller school Trivium Academy in a non-region contest at 3:45 p.m. next Monday, April 8 before opening the second half of region play.
In the Lady Wranglers’ 21-0 loss to host and region-leading River Valley, a four-run deficit through the first two innings ballooned to 20 when the Lady Dust Devils scored 16 times in the third inning. Meanwhile, the usually effective offense was completely shut down by River Valley’s no-hit pitching through the five innings in a game shortened by the mercy rule.
Against Kingman Academy, the Lady Wranglers took an early 2-0 lead through two innings; gave up five runs in the third; and then tied the score at 5-5 with a three-run rally in the bottom of the third. The visiting Lady Tigers then scored in each of the final four innings to pull away.
RANKINGS: With strong start of the season, the Lady Wranglers (8-6) found themselves at the end of last week ranked at No. 16 in the Arizona Interscholastic Association power points — even though they are in last place in the 3A West Region standings. The Wranglers’ baseball team, meanwhile, are paying for a slow start to their season (4-6) with a No. 30 ranking by the end of last week. Each team would need to finish in the top 24 spots in their respective conference rankings in order to qualify for their state tournaments.