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Villareal, Hardwick lead Rockets to semifinals

Shawn Naranjo Photo Goddard’s Drew Price tosses a pitch for the Rockets earlier this season.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

It is the chicken-or-the-egg syndrome with Goddard baseball. Is it being the number-one seed in 5A baseball? Or is it because they are the defending champions?

Either way, they are getting the best shot of every team they play. It took them until the bottom of the seventh inning to beat Roswell 3-2 in their first playoff game — a team they easily handled the five times they played this season.

On Thursday, the now-or-never nature of the playoffs had the eighth-seeded Miyamura Patriots entertaining visions of knocking off the Rockets. That almost happened on a day when many of the Rockets didn’t have their best games.

Goddard, however, showed why they’ve been to four consecutive championship games and are looking for a fifth, when they used the long ball and pitching by committee to hang on and escape a bases-loaded jam to win 7-5 at St. Pius X Field.

The quarterfinal game saw the Patriots play the Rockets harder than when they met on March 16. Goddard won that game, 8-2. On a day that was perfect for baseball with a slight breeze blowing in from left field, and the Rockets wearing their retro Houston Astros uniforms, they had senior Matt Shanor on the hill.

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“This game was like the last time we played Miyamura,” Goddard coach Gilbert Alvarado said. “Matt (Shanor) didn’t have his best stuff, but he pitched us out of some rough innings. He kept us close and the boys picked him up in the third inning. That third inning took some of the pressure off the players and they played their game.”

Shanor did not have a vintage day, but he battled and worked out of jams in every inning, including a bases-loaded situation in the second. As the game started Jayson Cordova hit a high chopper and the Rockets could not make a play. On the next pitch the Patriots played hit-and-run baseball as Cordova stole second and hitter AJ Silvas hit it through the hole vacated by Goddard’s shortstop, who was covering the base with the runner stealing. Miyamura had runners on first and third with no outs. Silva stole second and Shanor struck out the next two hitters swinging. The Patriots’ Lance Evans hit a scorcher down the first base line for a single, scoring Cordova from second base. Shanor got the next hitter to pop up.

In the second inning, Miyamura’s Matt Chavez hit the first pitch for a triple. Their next batter Marc Rios bunted the ball and a throwing error occurred, allowing a run to score and giving them a 2-0 lead.

On the mound pitching for the Patriots was Brandon Vidal. Vidal had shut down the Rockets and looked like he was in complete control. He gave up a hit to Ty Villareal to left field. Villareal was picked off first base as he was caught leaning toward second.

The Patriots continued to have Shanor on the ropes as he gave up a walk to Brett Mcfarland, and then Brandon Vidal singled giving them runners on first and second. Evans walked to load the bases. Shanor got a batter to pop out to second base. The next hitter lifted a deep fly ball to score the runner from third, giving them a 3-0 lead. The next hitter would fly out to end the inning.

“When I started this game I wasn’t hitting my spots well,” Shanor said. “They were putting the ball in play and we weren’t. They were scoring a run each inning and we weren’t, but it all changed in the third inning with Villareal’s home run.”

In the bottom of the third, Goddard’s Logan Mathison hit a shot to third base. The ball was fielded cleanly, but the third baseman made a bad throw and the hustling Mathison was safe. Noah Nunez walked, and Shanor came up and laid down a sacrificial bunt fielded by the pitcher (Vidal) who looked to third base, then to second base and decided to throw the ball to first. He cocked his arm to throw the ball and before he could drop his arm he realized there was no one covering the base.

This loaded the bases, bringing up Cameron Stevenson — who hit a sacrifice fly to left field, bringing in a tagging base runner from third as the Rockets scored their first run, closing the gap to 3-1.

With runners on first and second, Villareal came up and hit a three-run homer over the left field wall to give the Rockets a 4-3 lead. There was a delayed reaction because Patriots left fielder Silva jumped up, acted like he held the ball in his glove and started to run off the field — until the umpire wanted to see the ball. When Silva opened his glove, Villareal started his home run trot.

That hit changed the momentum of the game. Goddard scored four runs on two hits and one error in that third inning.

“It was a 2-1 count, fastball,” Villareal said. “It felt good.”

Alvarado made a pitching change and brought in Villareal. Villarael was for real as he came in throwing smoke, holding Miyamura scoreless in the fourth inning. It was the first one-two-three inning of the game for them.

“I can’t say how big that was, that Ty (Villareal) closed the door for us,” Alvarado said. “He pitched three scoreless innings for us. We are still playing pitch-count games. Shanor told us he didn’t have his best stuff today. I can’t stress enough that’s why you have teammates to pick each other up.”

In the bottom of the inning, Tyler Hardwick led off by going over the fence for the Rockets’ second home run of the game to give them a 5-3 lead. Not only did Villareal shut Miyamura out in the fourth, but also the next two innings. Goddard would score two more runs in the fifth on a Hardwick single just inside the third baseline.

“I was looking for a pitch I can hit hard,” Hardwick said. “It was a fastball right down the middle of the plate. We don’t panic, we all know that once someone gets something started we all feed off of that, and then we try to keep it going. On the single I was looking for something shorter quicker, just something to throw my hands on and I tried to make something happen. I hit it down the line and it turned out great.”

Goddard had to hang on in the seventh inning as Miyamura scored two runs and had the bases loaded before Hardwick closed the door and got a hitter to ground out to Shanor to end the game.

Goddard used three pitchers in the game. Villareal and Hardwick each had two hits to go along with a home run, and drove in three runs. Villareal got the win as pitcher.

“I told the boys we are at the stage where seedings don’t matter,” Alvarado said. “Everybody is 0-0 and there is no margin for error.”

Goddard will next play the winner of Belen and Artesia at 1 p.m. at Santa Ana Star Field.


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