Lions Hondo coach Savino Sanchez was determined that this game wouldn’t be like the last game against Artesia. Artesia forced Lions Hondo to the max as they built up an 8-0 lead before they would end up coming back to win in extra innings, 11-10 in their first game of the tournament.
In this game, there would be no hills to climb, no great comeback needed as Lions Hondo bats were hot and their pitcher Jacob Palomino was on fire and shut down Artesia with two hits allowing one earned run as Lions Hondo stayed perfect in their All-Star season by winning 9-1 to win the district.
“This game was better than the last game when we played them,” Savino Sanchez said. “In the last game we played them, it was 8-0 in the third inning, but we didn’t give up. Today we were throwing fastball and changeup. Hopefully, we can win at state this year.”
Artesia’s pitchers were wild all afternoon as they walked and threw wild pitches as Lions Hondo scored four runs off of that combination. Lions Hondo jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second inning, Artesia came back and scored one run in the top of the third as Palomino got an Artesia hitter to pop out to the shortstop to end the inning.
In the bottom of the third inning, Adrian and Xzavier Lucero each drew walks, and Savino Sanchez was hit by a pitch to load the bases. A run was scored on another wild pitch as Lions Hondo led 3-1, Abraham Toscano walked, Artesia threw another wild pitch to make the score 4-1.
Izaic Gonzales singled up the middle to drive two runs in giving them a 6-1 lead to end the inning. In the bottom of the fourth inning, Julian Manzanares doubled through shortstop and Amarante Murrujo singled past second base as Manzanares was held at third base. Marrujo continued to run to second base, which drew a throw from the Artesia catcher.
“The game was good,” Manzanares said. “Our offense and defense was good. We made contact with the ball. Our defense was on point and Jacob Palomino pitched a good game. This is a great feeling, we’ve never been to state before.”
Artesia’s second baseman cut the throw off, throwing home. His throw was over the catcher’s head, allowing Manzanares to score as Lions Hondo took a 7-1 lead. Murrujo ended up on third base with Tristian Torres walking. Murrujo scores on another wild pitch making the score 8-1. Lions Hondo would score another run as they increased their lead to 9-1.
“The game was great,” Marrujo said. “Everyone came out and hit the ball and we played defense. We took a lot of ground balls leading up to this game. It was just a great game.”
Palomino was a boss all game long as he threw 50-50 pitches of fastballs and changeups. He would only allow three base runners after Artesia scored in the third inning.
“I tried to keep them off balance today,” Palomino said. “I tried not to let them get any hits off of me. I was throwing my fastball and changeup trying to change the eye level so they couldn’t get comfortable. It means a lot, we have to keep moving forward at state.”
Coach Savino’s team is undefeated and feels like this is a special team after coming back to defeat Artesia. He feels like they came out flat against Artesia and they showed their heart by coming back. All postseason and practice, the coaches preach not to give up and to have “Attitude and Effort.” Savino’s goal is to keep his team moving forward — not to let one mistake turn into two and so on.
“We instill in our team to have the best effort and attitude,” Savino said. ‘We don’t quit, we talk to them about that all of the time to fight until the last out. We play one game at a time.”
Lions Hondo is on to state for the second year in a row.
Lions Hondo 9-10-year-olds
Lions Hondo 9-10-year-olds is 3-1 and played Noon Optimist I, beating them in a mercy-rule game in the championship game on Thursday. This win forces a championship game today.
In the first inning, Lions Hondo chose to be the visiting team to start the game, batting through the lineup. At the end of the first inning, it was 3-0 and at the end of the second inning, it was 8-0. At the end the third inning, the score was 9-0, and at the end of the fourth inning, it was 13-1.
“We played really solid defense behind the solid pitching,” Lions Hondo coach Josh Torres said. “Joshua Anderson pitched lights out. Manager Sylvester Lomeli and coach Mel Licon put together a flawless game plan that was executed perfectly by the team, putting them in a position to play for the championship game.”
Now, Lions Hondo has to face them again today at Artesia at 6 p.m. — it’s called the “what if game” — the winner of this game will be the District II champs of the 9-10-year-old division.
The key factor for Lions Hondo is they go into the championship game with the majority of their pitching staff available.
“The key today is for us to play solid defense,” Torres said. “Pitchers throwing strikes and hitters hitting the ball. Our players have been upbeat and have had fun and a positive attitude during this All-Star season and that has been the difference for us.”
Lions Hondo lost to Artesia, 4-2, in the second game of the tournament to put them in the losers’ bracket of the tournament. Coach Torres told his team to relax and take their games to another level and that they were not ready for their All-Star dreams to be over with.
Lions Hondo is on a two-game winning streak and they’re confident they can win. Lions Hondo is hoping to make it to the state for the first time in a few years since they have been beyond the district level.
“A vital factor to the team has been the leadership of 10-year-olds,” Torres said, “and the dedicated play of our 9-year-olds, the team future is bright no matter what happens in the game today.”
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or firstname.lastname@example.org.