HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL: Odessa High completes the sweep to advance to area round

SEMINOLE The Odessa High Bronchos are more than willing to let history keep repeating itself, especially when it means they keep advancing in the baseball playoffs.

For the second year in the row, the Bronchos swept their Class 6A bi-district series as a No. 4 seed playing a district champion. This time, El Paso Socorro was the victim as Odessa High advanced Saturday with a 2-0 victory at Robert Ryan Field.

Bobby Salinas pitched a three-hit shutout, matching his feat from a year ago of winning the first-round clincher.

Odessa High (19-10-1) will meet former district rival San Angelo Central next week in the area round. Details of the matchup are to be determined.

A month ago, such a scenario would have been hard to envision. The Bronchos lost four of five games to slip to sixth in the District 2-6A standings with six games to go. Odessa High responded by winning four in a row and was in contention for the No. 2 seed entering the final game of the regular season.

“We faced adversity in district, which was a good thing for us, being able to overcome that and get in,” Odessa High coach Joshua Hulin said. “We overcame some adversity just to get in, and I think that just kind of prepared us for the playoffs.

“We’re going to enjoy this, but come Monday we’re going to immediately turn our attention to San Angelo Central. We look forward to the challenge because they’re really good.”

Salinas scattered three hits while walking two and striking out four. He retired the last 10 batters he faced, ending the series with a strikeout, but said he wasn’t thinking of last season’s sweep of El Paso Americas.

“There’s similarities,” Salinas said. “We were a 4 seed and they were a 1, but it’s a whole new year, whole new feeling. It just feels real good to come do it again.”

The main thing, Salinas said, was to take advantage of Friday’s Game 1 victory and close out the series as quickly as possible.

“There’s a little pressure taken off (by winning Gane 1), but we didn’t want to go to Game 3,” he said. “We wanted to take care of business and finish it.”

Hulin said Salinas appeared to be on his game from the start.

“Bobby pitched his tail off today. He kind of looked comfortable in a pretty tense environment,” Hulin said. “Credit to him for the way he just continued to pound the zone. He was going to make (Socorro) earn it.”

Salinas said the game plan was rather simple.

“I just needed to go out there and throw strikes, trust my stuff and use my defense,” he said. “I knew they’d make the plays for me.”

Salinas benefited from his defense in the middle innings. In the third, Socorro’s Angel Rodriguez doubled with one out, but was thrown out going for third as Bronchos right fielder Andrei Garcia got the ball in quickly and second baseman Gabriel Avila made a perfect relay throw. In the fourth, Kevin Garcia led off with a single and Iain Campa followed with a one-out hit before Salinas got Damian Zuniga to hit into a double play.

Campa was the last baserunner Salinas allowed.

Socorro starter Jon Rios retired the first 13 batters he faced before allowing a run in the fourth and one in the second. He gave up three hits while striking out five and walking three.

Odessa High got the first run when Cristian Baeza doubled with one out and Hervey Nieto followed with a two-out single to right-center to drive the run in.

“It was just the same thing, try to hit the ball opposite field,” Nieto said. “I struggled a little bit my first at bat (striking out on five pitches), but I knew I had a runner in scoring position and I knew I had to bring him in. The game was getting close to the end. I just had to drive him in.”

Nieto added that getting the first run on the board after Rios dominated the first time through the order was a big turning point for the Bronchos.

“It gave a little bit more confidence and we came up with another run when we scratched out the next one,” he said. “That gave us more confidence after that first hit.”

The first hit, Socorro coach Joe Alvarez said, was one from which the Bulldogs never recovered.

“Our pitcher had a perfect game going in the fourth. He gave up a hit on a 3-1 count and they capitalized,” Alvarez said. “In the playoffs, that’s what you do.

“That’s a reflection of Coach Hulin. He’s got his club playing ball the way they’re supposed to and peaking at the right time. Hats off to them. They’re a class act. You’ve got to tip your hat to them. They were the better team this weekend.”

Odessa High added an insurance run in the sixth as Pilar Ramirez singled with two outs and courtesy runner Alex Cadena scored when Jordan Munoz’s popup to shallow left was dropped for an error. The Bronchos missed a chance to add to their lead when Munoz was called out at the plate attempting to score on Avila’s single.
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