Lack of offense leads to Trooper defeat in district opener

By: Albert Luna

Baseball season is in full swing, and the Trooper boys began district play on Wednesday, March 17 against the Americas Trailblazers. Due to weather conditions, the game was moved from Tuesday to Wednesday and was relocated to the El Paso Community College field.

Last season, the Troopers had an overall record of 6-2. Their first win came in their season home opener against Del Valle in which they won by a score of 8-2. Followed that game was a second place thrilling finish in the Burges tournament where they lost to Hanks in the bottom of the seventh of the Championship game. Their wins in this tournament included an opening 8-1 win against Canutillo, and a 7-1 victory against Horizon, this ultimately led to the 11-10 loss to Hanks. The next game for the Troopers was an away game against the Horizon Scorpions in which they won 9-8 and gave them momentum into their next tournament which took place at Horizon as well. The Troopers came out of the tournament with a 2-1 record featuring wins versus Bel Air and San Elizario and an 18-0 loss to Coronado. The district season went well for the Troopers as they remained four games above .500 and looked to come into the district season steamrolling ahead with success as their only goal.

March 18th marked the beginning of the district season as they were set to take on the Americas Trailblazers at the EPCC baseball field. The early signs did not look great for the visiting Troopers as the top of the first inning resulted in a quick three outs and allowed the home team Trailblazers to bring out the bats in the bottom half of the inning. Starting pitcher Joey Castaneda who was sporting a 2-0 record as a starter on the year came into the game searching for his third win in as many games. Castaneda struggled early as he allowed four Americas' runners to score highlighted by a two run double by their catcher. The Troopers left the field after the first inning trailing by a score of 4-0 and had to shorten the deficit on the offensive side.

Leading off the second inning was designated hitter John Figueroa, after a first pitch ball he proceeded to hit a line drive up the middle resulting in the first Trooper hit of the game. Next up to the plate was sophomore right fielder Derek Vasquez after fouling off three straight balls with a 2-2 count he struck out leaving the runner Figueroa at first base. Senior Jarrett Bryant followed with a four pitch walk making runners on first and second with freshman Kevin Cox next up to the plate. He struck out on the first three pitches and now with two outs, freshman Alec Espinoza flew out to right field to end the top half of the inning and leave Trooper runners on base. Castaneda seemed to settle down as he allowed only one Trailblazer to score thus leaving the Troopers going into the third inning down 5-0. Lack of offense in the third for the Troopers left them scoreless as they only could manage to get one hit by freshman Seth Ochoa. Castaneda shut down the Trailblazers the bottom of the inning as he did not allow a single hit and got the team's batters out in order.

The fourth inning brought a spark to the Trooper's bats and their offense erupted ending the long drought of scoreless innings. Figueroa led off the inning with a single, and then advanced to second when Vasquez pulled a single to left field. Bryant followed up hitting a 2-2 curve ball to left field to make the bases loaded with nobody out. Cox brought in the first Trooper run as he singled in Figueroa from third. Espinoza brought in the next run as he hit into a fielders' choice as pinch runner broke up the double play to force only one out and another Trooper score. The Troopers finished the inning on a double play as the batter Nick Sierra struck out and runner Espinoza got caught stealing. This killed the Trooper rally stranding a runner on third. The score was now 5-2 with all momentum pointing towards the Troopers. Castaneda allowed one more run before his moderate day on the mound was finished. Going  into the sixth inning the Troopers trailed 6-2.

A timely walk by Vasquez helped start the inning for the Troopers following that was a double off the center field wall by Bryant moving Vasquez over to third. Now with runners in scoring position the Troopers looked to show some energy. A quick strikeout by catcher Cox was the first out after a Trailblazer pitching change. Espinoza singled and scored Vasquez, on the relay throw home Espinoza tried to take an extra base but got thrown out, however Bryant scored on the throw to second. A crazy play that ended with the second out but also two runs scoring. Now with the score closer than it had been the whole game, Coach Martinez called for Junior Drew Cook to pinch hit for the cold Sierra. He went on to capitalize on a first pitch fastball and drive it to left field for a single. A very controversial call by the umpire to call the now runner Cook out because of no announcement of a pinch hitter left the Troopers shocked and stopped any momentum they had and it now gave Americas the chance to capitalize.

Senior pitcher Anthony Kennedy started the bottom half of the inning on the mound and allowed two Trailblazers to score before recording the three outs. It seemed like the life had been sucked out of the Trooper dugout and had a one, two, three seventh inning ending the game with a score of 8-4. This left the Troop with their first district loss, however senior captain Jarrett Bryant is still hopeful on the team's chance to be successful on the year, "I think we will have a good season, there will be some tough games but we will just have to battle," he said. In order for the Troopers to get on the wining side of things Bryant says that, "we need to limit the amount of runners we leave on base and not allow ourselves get into many holes offensively."

The season is still in the early stages and the Troopers look to have a successful one. Their next game is against Coronado and they look to avenge the loss. The team welcomes and appreciates all those who support.