Gunter handles Howe, pushes win streak to five
HOWE — After stumbling in the district opener, the Gunter Tigers are on a roll.
The five-game winning streak included a second straight sweep and it came thanks to some power at the plate and another near-perfect performance on the mound by Isaac Villanueva.
“Definitely feeling better since that first loss to Bonham,” Gunter head coach Kerry Clement said. “These kids have rallied around since then and we’re playing really well. Ready to see what we can do.”
Villanueva threw a one-hitter with 10 strikeouts, two walks and never put a runner in scoring position while Garrett Vogel homered as the second-place Tigers defeated Howe, 9-0, in District 11-3A action.
Jacob Morris was 2-for-3 with a double and scored, Trey Oblas was 2-for-4, drove in a run and scored twice and Kaden Rigsby had two RBI for Gunter (18-4, 5-1), which travels to Leonard on Tuesday night.
Austin Haley had the lone hit while Luke Catching and Ethan Lopez walked for Howe (5-13, 0-6), which hosts Blue Ridge on Tuesday.
Villanueva, who threw 63 of 86 pitches for strikes, worked around a one-out single by Haley in the first and struck out five of the first six Bulldogs he faced.
In the third, Brett Burnett reached on an error to open the frame but strayed too far on a bunt attempt and he got caught in a rundown. Catching followed with a walk.
Lopez worked a two-out walk in the fourth and was the last Bulldog to reach base. Villanueva retired the final 10 he faced and stretched his scoreless innings streak to 21 and a third innings — a span in which he has allowed only four hits. In his last 32 and a third innings he has allowed two runs.
“That’s three weeks in a row he’s been outstanding,” Clement said. “He’s been doing such a great job you almost start to expect it.”
The Tigers broke the game open when they tacked on five runs in the sixth. Gunter loaded the bases with no outs — Morris’ double was followed by Cooper Wade being hit by a pitch and Zach Boland bunting for a hit — and Cade Dodson walked on four pitches to force in a run. Rigsby was then hit by a pitch as the lead stretched to 6-0.
A one-out single by Oblas off the right-field wall led to three runs with the last two coming on an error. A strong relay caught two Tigers at third and as they all retreated to the prior base, the throw to get Oblas at first was wide so Dodson and Rigsby were able to change direction once again and close out the scoring.
Vogel made it 4-0 with one out in the fifth when he pounced on an 0-2 pitch and pulled it over the right-center field wall.
Gunter loaded the bases with one out in the fourth — Oblas pulled a single through the right side, Colton Jolly was hit by a pitch and Morris was hit by a pitch after the first out. Wade sent a chopper into the hole at short that Haley kept on the infield but everyone was safe and the Tigers were up 2-0.
Burnett came on in relief of Parker Pecina and his first pitch went to the backstop, allowing Jolly to scamper home with another run. But he struck out Landon Pelfrey and got Dodson to fly out to center to keep the Bulldogs within striking distance.
Gunter got on the board in the top of the third when Pelfrey beat out a grounder to short, stole second, went to third on a groundout and then scored on Rigsby’s groundout past the mound.
The Tigers had chances to score in each of the first two innings. Rigsby doubled to left with one out in the first but was stranded there and in the second, Riekkhan Bostick singled with one out and Morris followed with a long single off the right-field wall but the relay throw to third picked up an out and kept Gunter from putting runners at the corners.
“It was frustrating because we had some chances,” Clement said. “We finally started hitting the ball hard.”