By Daniel Dullum
After starting the week with a disappointing loss, Apache Junction bounced back with a pair of 4A Black Canyon Region baseball victories over Scottsdale Coronado.
On March 20, the Prospectors earned a 9-7 win at Coronado. Two days later, AJHS blanked the Dons 10-0 in five innings.
Senior left-hander Nathan Rhodes threw a no-hitter against Coronado, facing 22 hitters. He struck out eight and walked six. At the plate, Rhodes was 3-for-3 with a double and three runs batted in.
“It was nice, everyone was swinging the bats, and our defense really improved this week,” Rhodes said. “I was pitching good at the beginning, then I kind of lost it for a while, then I got it back and finished it. That was pretty nice.
“I was trying to pace myself a little bit. I’d get down in those 3-1 counts. I just tried to slow down and throw as many strikes as I could.”
“Nathan threw around 85 pitches, threw strikes and we fielded the ball for him,” Prospectors Coach Alex Murphy said. “We played a clean game. That’s what we have to do.”
Nick Mohn was 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored. Remy Wiltz drove in two runs, and Thomas Duarte and Austin Sample each had an RBI as the Prospectors improved to 8-8 overall, 2-0 in the region.
“Can’t complain too much about that,” Murphy said of the two region wins. “Those region games are obviously the most important ones. We bounced back from a really frustrating game (against Casa Grande Union) and won a tough one on Tuesday.”
The Prospectors used a six-run fifth inning to spark a late comeback in their first region win against the Dons at Scottsdale.
Remy Wiltz was 2-for-3 with a run batted in; Thomas Duarte, Nathan Rhodes and JJ Bradley also drove in runs, and Gabe Carranza, Austin Sample and Nick Mohn each scored two runs for AJ.
Sabastian Wells started and gave up five walks and six hits in 4 1/3 innings. Trentin Smith picked up the win in relief, and Jake Washburn threw a scoreless sixth to earn the save.
Dylan Pfeiffer was 2-for-3 for Coronado, and the Dons’ Jesus Quizada hit a double for the game’s only extra-base hit.
Apache Junction opened the week with a 17-4 loss to Casa Grande Union at the AJHS diamond.
The Prospectors led 4-2 after four innings, but a series of errors allowed CGU to put together a three-run rally and go ahead to stay at 5-4.
“Casa Grande is a good team. They’re not going to blow you away, but they put together some really good at-bats,” Murphy said. “You can’t give them outs, and that’s what we were doing.”
The Cougars added eight more runs in the sixth and one in the seventh. Federico Lopez was 4-for-4 with four runs batted in and a pair of doubles for CGU, and starting pitcher Colin Herbert was 3-for-4 with an RBI. Marc Ortiz added a pair of runs batted in.
Austin Sample started on the mound for AJ, going 4 2/3 innings, Nick Mohn finished the fifth, Gabe Carranza threw 1 2/3 innings and Trentin Smith worked the seventh.
“I think Austin pitched a really good game. He was at about 85 pitches, and I thought he was running out of steam when they tied up the game. So I thought we should go in a different direction. Could be the right choice, could be the wrong choice. We’ll never know.”
For AJ, Sample was 2-for-3 with an RBI. Nathan Rhodes, JJ Bradley and Mohn also drove in runs for the Prospectors.