In sports, especially baseball, the mental preparation of a team can be just as important, if not more so than its physical preparation.
Such was the case in Camp Verde High School’s baseball team’s first loss of the season, 11-3, to rival Chino Valley High School.
“You can’t manufacture focus and energy, you either have that want to win that day or you just didn’t show up with it, and we just didn’t show up with it,” Cowboys head coach Will Davis said. “This is a rivalry game, Chino wanted to kill us, and they did. They were here talking about a war.”
After tying the game at two in the third inning, the Cowboys [7-1] gave up six runs in the fourth to go down 8-2, a deficit from which they would never recover.
Cowboys sophomore catcher Dakota Battise’s throwing error allowed the first runner on base, and the Cougars figured out senior starting pitcher Easton Braden.
Consecutive RBI hits plated the first two runs and a walk loaded the bases. A two-RBI single to left field by Cougars junior pitcher Tyler Hixon chased Braden, who took Battise’s spot at catcher.
Senior shortstop Wyatt Howe filled in on the mound, almost getting out of the jam with a fielder’s choice at second base, but a passed ball allowed the seventh run to score in the next at bat.
Chino Valley’s fifth hit of the inning, this one to right field, scored the eighth run.
“They just kind of started putting balls in play, we kind of kicked some balls around,” Braden said. “That’s all they did was put the ball in play and capitalized off putting the balls in play and us making the mental errors and physical errors on that part.”
Camp Verde senior third baseman Ryan Cain led off the fourth with a walk, but two strikeouts and a ground out resulted in a short at bat for the Cowboys.
“I think our heads were too big, we’re trying to crush the ball every single time. We need to get back to situational hitting,” Cain said. “Baseball is all about scoring runs, getting people on base.... if you can’t get anybody on base, you ain’t going to score runs.”
The Cougars were hungry for more, scoring from second base on a single to left field in the fifth to make it 9-2.
Down 2-0 in the third inning, senior second baseman Carson Zale doubled in Battise and sophomore left fielder Dominiq Bruno to tie the game up.
Chino Valley stranded runners on base in the first two innings, but in the third managed to get them home. Braden put the Cougars’ first run on base after hitting him with a pitch. They tacked on two more in the seventh, and Bruno scored the Cowboys’ third to put makeup on an ugly performance.
“Couldn’t get them going, couldn’t get them working hard, couldn’t get the thought process right, and, you know, I think it’s going to be a good learning experience for them,” Davis said.
Being that the Cougars are in Division 3A, the loss will have no effect on the team’s standings in its own division, 2A.
Bruno, Howe and Zale all finished with two hits; Zale led with two RBI. Braden gave up six earned runs on seven hits with one strikeout and three walks in three and a third innings. Howe gave up one run one seven hits with two strikeouts in three and two thirds innings.