Just about every game from here on out is what counts for the Bearcats. Even though Sherman hosts a tournament this weekend — weather permitting — all of the focus is on the contests that will affect the district standings.
After a few rough weeks to open the year where the end results produced only one victory, the mindset was still positive for a program that has come close to the playoffs the past couple of seasons and hoping to make a push into the top four.
“We’re going to take care of business from this point forward,” Sherman head coach Chris Anderson said. “We told the kids we were 0-0 right now.”
The past performance had no bearing on what the Bearcats can do going forward and they took a nice first step with an 8-3 victory over Princeton in the District 10-5A opener at Veterans Field.
“In their world we’re 1-0 right now, which is a good thing to be,” Anderson said. “We’re not really a tournament team We’re not built like one. We’re built to go win in district and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Ryan Ortiz was 3-for-3 with two doubles, walked, scored twice and drove in a run, Gabe Blankenship walked, scored twice and drove in a run and Tate Bethel allowed two earned runs on six hits in six-plus innings with three strikeouts and two walks for Sherman (2-9, 1-0).
Elian Guerra singled and drove in two runs and Ethan Buff drove in the other run for Princeton (2-8, 0-1).
Sherman was able to get to Panthers starter Brendon Strickland early and then maintained that lead.
“We knew he was their No. 1. We knew he threw hard,” Anderson said. “We told our guys to sit fastball. You’ve got to do whatever you can do to put the ball in play. We were going to be as aggressive as we can on the bases.”
The Bearcats snuffed out Princeton’s potential rally in the seventh. Logan Turner led off the inning with a bunt single and then Nate Gonzalez was hit by a pitch. Trevor VanSant came on in relief of Bethel and got a foulout to first before Guerra’s sac fly to right.
Luke Young’s throw was cut off by first baseman Dylan Cernero, who threw to third to get Gonzalez tagging up from second to end the game.
Sherman closed out its scoring with two runs in the sixth. Blankenship walked to open the inning, stole second and scored on Ortiz’s double off the base of the right field fence. He went to third on a wild pitch and Bethel had a sacrifice fly to left.
The Bearcats went up 6-2 with a two-out rally during the fifth inning. It started when Logan Williams and Landon Gutierrez were hit by pitches and then Gavin Wright followed with an RBI single to center. Cernero almost brought home a pair with a long drive to center that was hauled in near the warning track to end the frame.
Sherman added to its lead with a pair of runs in the fourth. Cernero had a one-out single to right before Blankenship grounded to short. Andrew Loera bobbled the ball and then threw it high. Courtesy runner Jeremy Long continued all the way around as the Panthers left home plate uncovered.
After Ortiz singled, Connor Clark plated Blankenship with a bunt towards first. The run scored but the play ended the inning as Princeton not only got the out at first but Ortiz trying to get to third.
A two-out RBI single to center from Guerra pulled Princeton to within 3-2 in the top of the third. Loera had a one-out double into the left-field corner before Guerra’s hit. The Panthers loaded the bases when Cade Hitt singled and Reece Weaks was hit by a pitch. Bethel kept Sherman in front with a strikeout to end the frame.
“He changes speeds so well,” Anderson said. “He does a good job of keeping people off balance.”
The Bearcats held a 3-1 advantage after the second inning. Wright led off with a single, moved up on a groundout and went to third on a wild pitch. Blankenship followed with a long fly to left that would have been at worst a sacrifice fly but was dropped and so Blankenship motored into second base.
Ortiz followed with a double to right center but Blankenship had to hold up and see if it would be caught, so he was forced to stop at third.
The Panthers brought the infield in and it paid off on Clark’s chopper between third and short. Ashton Garcia went home for the second out but the Bearcats picked up another run immediately on a wild pitch.
Princeton tied the game with an unearned run in the second. A two-out error put Luke Tarby at second and he came around on Buff’s single down the third-base line.
Sherman got on the board early with a run in the first. Ortiz and Bethel sandwiched walks around a forceout before Ethan Bedgood’s one-hopper got through at third to allow Clark to score from second.
A strikeout and then a groundout following a double steal kept the Bearcats from a bigger inning.