WINDSWEPT: Medrano fires shutout, then Redfield, TC outslug Vernon 21-13 for wild doubleheader sweep
NOTHING BUT ZEROES: Temple College sophomore right-hander Nathan Medrano pitched a three-hit shutout with 12 strikeouts as the Leopards beat Vernon 6-0 in the first game of Wednesday's Northern Texas Junior College Athletic Conference doubleheader at Danny Scott Sports Complex. Medrano (4-2), a Houston signee who hails from Gilroy, California, bounced back from a rough performance at Weatherford in his previous outing and helped TC (16-4, 4-2 NTJCAC) grab its second doubleheader sweep in five days. Coach Craig McMurtry's Leopards outslugged Vernon 21-13 in eight innings in Game 2. (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
By GREG WILLE
Nathan Medrano made it seem so simple in the first game of Temple College's baseball doubleheader Wednesday afternoon at Danny Scott Sports Complex.
Fully aware of a fierce west wind blowing out to left field, the sophomore right-handed starting pitcher executed his gameplan against Vernon by throwing strikes, keeping the ball down and missing bats.
“There is some doubt in the back of your mind,” Medrano said regarding the pitcher-unfriendly wind, “but really it's just hit spots, (move pitches) in and out and keep the ball down.”
The result was a three-hit, seven-inning complete game with 12 strikeouts for Medrano, who received offensive support from freshmen Dylan Blomquist, Clark Henry and Ty Tilson as the Leopards cruised to a 6-0 victory.
The second game of the Northern Texas Junior College Athletic Conference doubleheader, however, proved to be anything but simple for either team.
The strong, persistent breeze – approximately 25 mph sustained and often gusting higher than 30 mph – made catching infield popups and outfield fly balls a frustrating adventure for both sides, giving the offenses additional opportunities and transforming would-be singles into extra-base hits that prolonged innings and tested the squads' pitching depth as well as their patience.
Temple frittered away leads of 4-1 and 12-6 in the finale, but freshman Joseph Redfield ripped two run-scoring triples during his seven-RBI outburst as the hot-hitting Leopards exploded for nine runs in the final three innings en route to a 21-13, eight-inning, run-rule victory over the Chaparrals, giving TC two sweeps of conference doubleheaders in five days.
Longtime Temple head coach Craig McMurtry has grown accustomed to back-and-forth, high-scoring shootouts when the Leopards play conference road games at blustery locales such as Vernon, but he hasn't often had to deal with those at TC's usually pitcher-friendly home ballpark, where the prevailing south wind blows in from right field and right-center.
McMurtry might have still been shaking his head after the bizarre doubleheader finale concluded, but at least his surging Leopards (16-4 overall, 4-2 NTJCAC) had two victories to show for their efforts.
“Exactly the same,” McMurtry said, comparing Wednesday's conditions to what TC normally plays in at Vernon and other NTJCAC locations such as Cisco, Hill and Ranger. “I mean, you've got the wind blowing out at 20-something to 30 miles an hour. The balls that went up, you held your breath on all of them. And the popups, they were an experience.
"This was Candlestick (Park) wind today, where anything that goes up, you don't know what's fixing to happen," the former major league pitcher added. "We don't get to work on it much because there hadn't been a day like this (in Temple) in I don't know how many years.”
Each team committed five official errors in Game 2, although several defensive mistakes and lapses in judgment had to be scored as hits. Overall, though, Temple seemed to benefit from Vernon's fielding gaffes more than the Chaparrals (14-10, 3-3 NTJCAC) gained from the Leopards' miscues.
“We were fortunate. We took advantage of some of them, too – the popups and some of the balls that they threw away. We tried to return the favor at times,” McMurtry said. “You've got to be able to play in whatever conditions, and we talk about that. I know Coach (Frank) Kellner (TC's assistant head coach) talks about that a lot to the hitters especially, that you can't let the conditions affect you.
“I was just a little disappointed – not in the results, but I thought some of our hitters could have tried to hit more balls to left field (to take advantage of the wind blowing out). We didn't hit many balls to the left side. I was thinking we'd get up there and get the (bat) head out and drive some balls to left field.”
GOING THE OTHER WAY: Temple College freshman right fielder and Belton graduate Dylan Blomquist hits a run-scoring double to left field off Vernon pitcher Clark Candiotti during the third inning of the Leopards' 6-0 win over the Chaparrals in the opening game of Wednesday afternoon's NTJCAC doubleheader at Danny Scott Sports Complex. The hit drove in freshman Clark Henry, who doubled. Blomquist went 3-for-3 with two runs batted in. (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
Out of Temple's eight hits in the Game 1 win, the only extra-base hits were a triple and a double by freshman designated hitter Henry and a double by freshman right fielder Blomquist, a former Belton standout. The Leopards cranked up their production in Game 2 as they pounded out 22 hits, including six triples – two by Redfield and one each by Henry, Tilson, freshman shortstop Seth Stephenson and sophomore first baseman Robert Shaw, who also had a double.
Eight TC players recorded multiple hits in the finale, paced by Redfield's 4-for-5, seven-RBI performance from the No. 9 spot in the order. Henry, Stephenson and freshman second baseman Travis Chestnut each posted three hits, Tilson drove in three runs and Shaw and Stephenson knocked in two runs apiece.
The Leopards were clinging to a 14-13 lead with two outs in the bottom of the seventh and had the bases loaded when Redfield stepped to the plate. He ripped a long line drive that Vernon center fielder Marco Barrera almost caught on the run, but the ball sailed over his head for a three-run triple and a 17-13 advantage before TC added a four-run eighth to end the game one inning earlier than scheduled.
“Redfield is the one that bailed us out,” McMurtry said of his freshman center fielder from Waco Midway. “He had seven RBI and two triples today out of the 9-hole. That was huge, coming up with guys on base and finding ways to get them in, especially late.”
Medrano, a transfer from NCAA Division II St. Edward's in Austin, was the main man in the seven-inning opener. The University of Houston signee bounced back in a big way from his previous start, a conference-opening 8-2 loss at Weatherford last Wednesday. He battled mechanical problems against the Coyotes while allowing eight hits, seven runs (six earned) and six walks in 4 1/3 innings.
Working with McMurtry during subsequent bullpen sessions to adjust his release point paid major dividends for Medrano (4-2), who baffled Vernon's batters with a sharp array of fastballs, sliders and changeups.
“Last week I was more over the top and not really three-quarter like I normally am. But I threw two good bullpens this past week to work on getting back to the three-quarter slot and letting the ball run,” Medrano said. “The biggest thing today was just keeping the ball down and kind of letting the wind just take the ball a little bit – letting the fastball and changeup run. It was a lot better outing today than last week. It was good to bounce back.”
Brendon Concannon ripped Medrano's first pitch of the day into left field for a single, but sophomore catcher Sammy Diaz threw out the stealing Concannon – from his knees – at second base to help out his fellow Californian (Medrano is from Gilroy and Diaz from Palm Desert). When Medrano fired a high fastball past Zak Betencourt to end the top of the first inning, it was a sign of things to come.
In their first at-bat, the Leopards gave Medrano more run support than he would need.
With two outs, hulking right-handed starter Clark Candiotti (1-2) walked Henry before Tilson hit an infield single. Blomquist then ripped a run-scoring single to center for a 1-0 Temple lead. After Diaz walked to load the bases, the Chaparrals' defense committed the first of its many vital errors on the day. Shortstop Concannon made a diving stop of a Max Puls grounder up the middle, but his low throw skipped past first and allowed Tilson and Blomquist to score for a 3-0 game.
Medrano struck out the side in the second and added a perfect third, facing the minimum through three frames.
TC expanded its lead to 4-0 in the third, as Henry – who totaled three extra-base hits in the doubleheader – ripped a double down the line in left and scored when the left-handed Blomquist hit an opposite-field shot that carried over the left fielder's head for an RBI double.
“I thought Dylan did a good job in the first game of hitting the ball the other way, hitting it off the wall and finding a gap,” McMurtry said.
Medrano notched two more strikeouts in the fourth – working around a Jhonmy Martinez single and then his first walk – before throwing a perfect fifth.
Another Vernon defensive mistake helped the Leopards pushed their lead to 6-0 in the fifth. With one out, Henry hit a sinking liner to right field that shot past the charging Logan Williams and went for a triple. Tilson ripped an RBI single to make it 5-0, then Blomquist (3-for-3, two RBI) laced another opposite-field single and Diaz singled to right before Puls added a sacrifice fly for a 6-0 game.
IN TOP FORM: Temple College sophomore right-hander Nathan Medrano delivers a pitch to Vernon's Zak Betencourt during the host Leopards' 6-0 victory against the Chaparrals in the first game of Wednesday's NTJCAC doubleheader at Danny Scott Sports Complex. Medrano (4-2), a Houston signee, struck out Betencourt all three times and racked up 12 strikeouts overall in a three-hitter for TC, which extended its conference winning streak to four games and won its fifth consecutive game overall. (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
After Medrano registered two more strikeouts in the sixth and dodged a two-out double by Martinez, the only question was whether he could complete the shutout. Medrano issued two-out walks to Williams and Barrera and received a mound visit from McMurtry.
“I wanted him to try to finish it, but his pitch count was getting up around 100 and I didn't want to leave him out there,” McMurtry said. “But I was going to give him a chance to keep the shutout, and if he gave up a run then he was coming out. He did a great job, and we needed it.”
Medrano then struck out Seth Bowman with a hard-breaking slider and let out a celebratory shout after Diaz squeezed the shutout's final strike.
“I definitely did (want to finish the shutout). I just got out of rhythm with the last two walks, trying to do too much,” Medrano said. “I just tried to get back to what I was doing previously, flipping some curveballs and changeups to finish the deal.”
In the scheduled nine-inning second game, things went according to script for Temple – at least for a while. McMurtry's starting pitcher was lefty Blomquist, who threw four scoreless innings of one-hit relief with six strikeouts at Weatherford a week earlier.
Blomquist struck out two in the first inning against Vernon, then his offense went to work against 6-foot-5 freshman right-hander Justin Karbowski. Singles by Chestnut and Henry got TC going in the bottom of the first before Tilson's RBI groundout produced a 1-0 lead. Diaz then stroked an RBI single to center and the hard-hit ball rolled underneath the glove of the charging Barrera, allowing the 6-3, 220-pound Diaz to round the bases and score with a headfirst slide for a 3-0 game.
The Leopards' lead grew to 4-0 in the second when Clay Bradford was hit by a pitch to start the inning, stole second base, went to third on Shaw's flyout and scored when Redfield chopped a one-out RBI single over the drawn-in second baseman.
At that point Temple seemed to be in total control, but Blomquist then began to falter in the third. Leading off, Barrera drove a fly ball to left-center and it rode the stiff wind over the fence for a solo homer and a 4-1 game.
Vernon then exploded for five runs in the fourth to seize a 6-4 lead and chase Blomquist. Martinez and Luke Piper singled before Noah Anderson's RBI single, then TC committed two infield errors on one play. Chestnut fielded a Williams grounder but his flip to second for a potential force out pulled Stephenson off the bag, and Stephenson's low throw skipped past first, scoring Piper to make it 4-3.
Barrera then delivered the big blow, going the other way and getting the ball to ride the helping wind out to left for a go-ahead, three-run homer – his second round-tripper in two innings – and a 6-4 Chaps lead. That prompted McMurtry to replace Blomquist with righty reliever Marcus Mott, who struck out the next two batters.
“Realistically, it is what it is today,” McMurtry said. “When (Blomquist) gave up those two fly balls that the wind obviously took out, it kind of got to him a little bit, understandably. You can tell they try to do that at Vernon. They deal with that every game with the wind blowing out.”
However, Temple wasn't down for long. The Leopards sent 13 batters to the plate in the fourth and scored eight runs to seize a 12-6 advantage. Vernon made three key errors during that uprising, which featured Stephenson's two-run triple, Henry's ensuing RBI triple and Redfield's two-run, two-out single to right.
Of course, the day's conditions meant that the Chaps certainly weren't out of contention.
Anderson popped a two-run, two-out double off Mott in the fifth for a 12-8 game, then Vernon batted around in the sixth and pushed across four runs against four TC pitchers to create a 12-12 deadlock. Piper's two-run single off Mason Brandenberger made it 12-11, then Vernon tied it when Chestnut was unable to catch Anderson's sky-high, swirling popup in shallow right for an error.
The Leopards came up with a timely response in their sixth as Redfield blasted a two-out RBI triple to right for a 13-12 lead before Tennessee signee Stephenson ripped an RBI single to left to make it 14-12.
Diaz's throwing error on Barrera's steal of third allowed Vernon to get within 14-13 in the seventh against Jace Walker (1-0), but Temple came right back with a three-run seventh thanks to another clutch hit by Redfield. The Leopards loaded the bases with one out before Jaden Fowler struck out Shaw. The sprinting Barrera had a shot to catch Redfield's liner to center, but the ball sailed over him for a triple that scored Diaz, Andre Jackson and David Wilson to give TC breathing room at 17-13.
Belton product Brian Shadrick pitched a scoreless eighth, then the Leopards closed out their wild-and-crazy win with a four-run barrage. Tilson bashed an RBI triple to center and scored on Jackson's infield single, then an errant throw by the third baseman scored Jackson before Shaw slammed a triple to right-center to drive in Wilson and cap Temple's adventurous run-rule win for the sweep.
TC visits Vernon on Saturday for a noon doubleheader to complete the four-game series.
Northern Texas Junior College
Temple College 6, Vernon 0
Vernon 000 000 0 – 0 3 1
Temple 301 020 X – 6 8 0
V: Clark Candiotti and Luke Piper. TC: Nathan Medrano and Sammy Diaz. W – Medrano (4-2). L – Candiotti (1-2). 3B – TC: Clark Henry. 2B – V: Jhonmy Martinez; TC: Henry, Dylan Blomquist.
Highlights – TC: Medrano 12 strikeouts, complete game; Blomquist 3-for-3, two runs batted in, run; Henry 2-for-3, three runs; Ty Tilson 2-for-3, RBI, two runs; Max Puls RBI; V: Martinez 2-for-3; Candiotti six strikeouts, complete game.
Temple College 21, Vernon 13 (8)
Vernon 001 524 10 – 13 9 5
Temple 310 802 34 – 21 22 5
V: Justin Karbowski, Foster Kreuzer (4), Nicholas Wilson (5), Ryan Galvan (6), Joismer Gonzalez (6), Jaden Fowler (7), Will Hahnfeld (8) and Jared Baehr. TC: Dylan Blomquist, Marcus Mott (4), Davis Pratt (6), Mason Brandenberger (6), Jace Walker (6), Brian Shadrick (8) and Sammy Diaz. W – Walker (1-0). L – Galvan (1-2). HR – V: Marco Barrera 2 (2). 3B – TC: Joseph Redfield 2, Seth Stephenson, Clark Henry, Ty Tilson, Robert Shaw. 2B – V: Noah Anderson; TC: Shaw.
Highlights – TC: Redfield 4-for-5, seven runs batted in (three-run triple in seventh), run; Shaw 2-for-5, two RBI, run; Travis Chestnut 3-for-5, two runs; Henry 3-for-5, three runs, RBI; Stephenson 3-for-6, two RBI, run; Diaz 2-for-5, three runs, RBI; Tilson 2-for-6, three RBI, two runs; Andre Jackson 2-for-2, three runs, RBI; Clay Bradford three runs; David Wilson two runs; Mott six strikeouts in 2 1/3 innings; V: Barrera 2-for-2, four RBI (three-run home run in fourth), four runs; Jhonmy Martinez 2-for-4, three runs; Piper 2-for-4, two RBI, two runs; Anderson 2-for-5, three RBI, run.
Records – Temple 16-4 overall, 4-2 in NTJCAC; Vernon 14-10, 3-3.
Notes – Temple sweeps NTJCAC doubleheader, extends conference winning streak to four games; Vernon hosts Temple in doubleheader at noon Saturday.