FORT STOCKTON The Odessa High baseball team found itself playing uphill all night long Friday and never quite caught up.
El Paso Montwood took advantage of a pair of three-run innings on the way to an 8-5 victory in Game 1 of their Class 6A regional quarterfinal series at Panther Stadium.
For the second week in a row, the Bronchos (21-12-1) find themselves needing to win Game 2, which is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, to extend their season.
While the Bronchos battled back, a string a close calls cost Odessa High chances in the third, fifth and sixth innings.
"The bottom line is Montwood got hits with two outs and we didn’t," Odessa High coach Joshua Hulin said. "They beat us. The only guys on that field that beat us were in the other dugout.
"They pitched better than we did, they played better defense and they hit the ball better."
Montwood coach Willie Romo said getting Game 1 was a big step for the Rams (23-17). In beating Hurst Bell in three games in the area round, Montwood won the series opener in 11 innings.
"Every coach in a three-game series is certainly pleased with winning Game 1, but I don’t think anyone’s going to be overly confident," Romo said. "It’s the regional quarterfinals. Everybody’s got a good club."
Odessa High’s Gabriel Avila was 2 for 3 with a double and two RBIs, while Jordan Munoz doubled twice in finishing 2 for 3 with an RBI.
Cristian Baeza (6-4) was tagged for seven runs on nine hits in taking the loss. He walked four and struck out three.
Eric Villagomez, who hit a two-run homer in Montwood’s three-run first, finished 3 for 4. Bobby Loya was 2 for 2 with a double, a triple and two RBIs for the Rams.
Jesus Tovar (6-1) worked 5.1 innings for the win, allowing four runs on six hits. He struck out eight.
After Villagomez connected in the first, the Rams added a run when Aaron Morales reached on a fielder’s choice. The Bronchos got two runs back in the second on Avila’s RBI single and Zach Attaway’s sacrifice fly, but left runners at second and third.
"Eric got hold of a pitch," Romo said. "He’s been focused this week and he’s been hitting the ball well. He got a good pitch and was able to do some damage with it."
Montwood made it 4-2 in the second when Loya led off with a double and scored on Primo Vasquez’s fielder’s choice. Odessa High answered with Munoz’s RBI double, but Bobby Salinas was out at the plate attempting to score the tying run from first on the play to end the inning.
Montwood’s second big inning came in the third. After two quick outs to start and walks to Morales and Chris Saucedo, Loya tripled and Jose Hurtado followed with a double to make it 7-3.
The Bronchos scored a pair of unearned runs in the sixth after Tovar reached his pitch limit. Avila doubled off Loya to drive in a run and scored on Charles McClure’s groundout, but the Rams added an insurance run in the bottom of the inning when Villagomez led off with a single and scored on a wild pitch.
"We’d come up to the plate and have good at bats," Hulin said. "We’d find ways to get on base and we’d create momentum. But, ultimately, you’ve got to have those timely hits and we just didn’t get enough of those. Montwood did and we didn’t."
After Odessa High came back last week to beat San Angelo Central twice, Romo is taking nothing for granted.
"It’s going to be tough because Coach Hulin does a fantastic job with his group," Romo said. "Their 1 through 9 are tough outs. They have great at bats. Anyone in their lineup is a threat at any time. They hit the ball well. They hit the ball to all sides of the field, so we need to prepare ourselves mentally.
"They’ve got some guys coming in to pitch who helped them win some games last week and the week before. We’ll certainly have our hands full. It’s going to be a dogfight."