HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL: Odessa High rallies to win playoff opener

SEMINOLE The Odessa High Bronchos kept hanging in there Friday in the opener of their Class 6A baseball bi-district series.

The result was a 7-3 victory against El Paso Socorro at Robert Ryan Field and a chance to advance in the playoffs for the second year in a row.

Game 2 of the series is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at Ryan Field with Game 3, if necessary, to follow.

Down 3-0 after three innings, the Bronchos (18-10-1) seized the game with a five-run seventh inning as the Socorro bullpen suffered a devastating meltdown.

“Game 1 of the playoffs is like Game 1 of the first tournament or Game 1 of district,” Odessa High coach Joshua Hulin said. “There’s some nerves there that the guys have to figure out how to handle. You could see early that the pitchers were on and the batters were struggling, but as the game progressed I thought we got more comfortable at the plate.

“It was a great response after being down three. I’m proud of the guys.”

Odessa High ace Cristian Baeza overcame one rough spot to throw a complete game for the win. He allowed three runs, all unearned, on six hits. The senior right-hander walked none and struck out eight, including three in a row in the seventh to end it.

“We just kept fighting and grinding at bats,” said Baeza, who had a game-tying triple in the seventh. “There was a lot of encouragement in the dugout.

“We had a lot of momentum going into (the bottom of the seventh). I knew my defense would back me up, so I was just confident on the mound throwing strikes.”

Gibrian Pena went 3 for 3 with two doubles and two RBIs to lead Odessa High offensively. He ignited the big inning with a leadoff double and later walked with the bases loaded to force in a run.

“We’ve been going through adversity all year,” said Pena, who reached base five times. “We’ve had our backs were against the wall, and it showed tonight. We had our backs against the wall again and we came through again.”

For Socorro (21-11-1), the task is to leave Friday’s game in the past, Bulldogs coach Joe Avlarez said.

“One of the things we talked about is we’ve been resilient all year,” Alvarez said. “We’ve had losses, tough losses, and we’ve had tough wins, but we’ve always bounced back. They’re always saying ‘We’re brothers, we’re brothers. Whatever happens, we’re going to fight for each other.’

“We’ve talked about it. When we get a meal and they get settled in, we’ll talk a little bit more about it. Shake it off, get a good night’s rest and come back for Game 2 and 3.”

Socorro starter Jose Enriquez pitched into the seventh, but did not figure in the decision. Enriquez gave up three runs on six hits with three walks and seven strikeouts. He also went 2 for 3 at the plate with a double, a triple and an RBI.

The Bulldogs scored all their runs in the third, taking advantage of an Odessa High error with two outs that allowed the first run to score. Enriquez followed with a triple that just missed going out and Kevin Garcia added an RBI double to make it 3-0, but Baeza gave up just two more hits the rest of the night.

Hulin said keeping things from being worse was the key to Odessa High being able to get back in the game.

“It was a tough play for G (Pena) and then they took advantage,” Hulin said. “It was a good job by their hitters. But I’m proud of the guys. They fought and grinded and got back in it.

“We also understand that this is only Game 1 and it’s a best-of-three series. We’ve got to keep that in perspective.”

Odessa High began its comeback in the fifth, when Charles McClure beat out a bouncer to third for an infield hit and scored on Pena’s first double.

In the sixth, infield hits by Hervey Nieto and Jordan Munoz led to Gabriel Avila’s run-scoring force out. Munoz finished 2 for 4.

The Bronchos completed the comeback in the seventh as Pena led off with his second double to chase Enriquez.

“I was trying to fire up these guys,” Pena said. “Every day, I come out here and try to make these guys the best they can be and they make me the best I can be. We just had to come out here and put it on them.”

Baeza greeted Socorro reliever Angel Rodriguez, who allowed three runs in taking the loss, with a triple to left-center. It was Odessa High’s last hit of the game, but the Bronchos were just getting started.

Bobby Salinas was hit by a pitch and Nieto was intentionally walked to load the bases with no outs. Pilar Ramirez was hit by a pitch to force in courtesy runner Jesse Cervantes with the go-ahead run.

Apolinar Alvarez came on for the Bulldogs and got Munoz to hit into a 1-2-3 double play, but then walked Avila to reload the bases, hit McClure and Zack Attaway and walked Pena to force in three more runs.

Baeza, who made the final out in the top of the seventh, needed 12 pitches to close it out.