A 15-0 mercy-rule win for the Camp Verde High School baseball team over Mayer High School in its first game of the season would be indicative of a team that is already performing to its standards.
But in reality, Cowboys head coach Will Davis was satisfied with only one of three facets of the team’s showing, its defense that committed zero errors and allowed zero runs. Extremely windy conditions affected play as well.
“We did a lot of good things but not anything great,” Davis said.
Up just 1-0 after two innings, Camp Verde [1-0] expanded its lead to 5-0 after the third and blew the game open with a 10-run fourth. Taking a closer look at the Cowboys’ at-bats, there was room for improvement.
“I felt like we had first game jitters, nerves at the plate, that’s why we were up only 1-0 after two innings,” Davis said. “I’m not unpleased, but I’m not pleased with it either.”
Senior first baseman John Castillo hit a leadoff single in the first and immediately stole second. He moved to third when senior shortstop Wyatt Howe flied out to center, and scored the first run of 2017 off of a dropped third strike that Mayer junior catcher Dylan Wilhide elected to throw to first base.
Camp Verde took advantage of three third-inning errors to score four runs. Senior right fielder Jose Diaz scored the first on a sacrifice fly by senior second baseman Carson Zale after having reached on a walk and advanced to third on consecutive infield errors.
Those two errors allowed Castillo and Howe to reach base, and score the next two runs, both driven in by an RBI single by senior pitcher Easton Braden.
Braden scored the fourth when Wildcats sophomore second baseman Cody Colquitt bobbled a ground ball.
Braden, the Cowboys’ ace, struck out the side in the first and even picked off his first baserunner in the second. He allowed just one hit, in the third inning, on the only in-play ball that left the infield.
Braden finished with eight strikeouts on two walks in three innings, but also committed a balk and hit one batter.
“I wanted to shut them down quick,” Braden said. “First game of the year at home, shut them down and get the win for the team.”
Davis pointed out that Braden’s strike-to-ball ratio was not up to par, but a small, growing ditch in the new pitchers mound threw off both Braden and sophomore fourth-inning reliever Dakota Battise. Twice during the game the Cowboys worked on the ditch.
“I felt like he [Braden] struggled a bit,” Davis said. “He’s getting confident with his stride.”
In the fourth, Camp Verde dropped the guillotine on Mayer.
A leadoff double to the deep left field corner by sophomore center fielder Dominiq Bruno, who then immediately stole third, got the ball rolling. A passed ball by Wilhide allowed Bruno to score.
The Cowboys totaled 11 stolen bases and eight in the fourth; Mayer did not attempt to throw out the majority of them.
“Overall we should be able to run on anybody with the guys we have,” Davis said. “Only in a couple of spots we won’t.”
The Wildcats almost got out of the inning after turning a double play, but Camp Verde scored its final eight runs with two outs. It was helped out by a wild pitch and five walks, two of which sent in runs.
Camp Verde finished with nine hits and left four runners on base.
“Our biggest key is being patient up there,” Castillo said. “We’re all just getting back into the groove."