HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL: Odessa High sticks with winning formula

FORT STOCKTON Another Saturday, another comeback for the Odessa High baseball team.

This time, the Bronchos did it with offense.

Odessa High put together a big inning in each game Saturday to defeat El Paso Montwood 11-6 and 13-1 at Panther Stadium and win their Class 6A regional quarterfinal series in three games. It was the second week in a row the Bronchos have bounced back from a Game 1 loss to win a series.

“After the game (Friday) night, I told the guys my confidence was unwavering,” Odessa High coach Joshua Hulin said. “After we lost Game 1, I still felt real good about it. These guys have played so good throughout the playoffs so we came out here and went after Game 2. We got that one and went after the next one.

“We just don’t change anything. I’m just such a bland person that all I can do is think about the thing that’s right in front of me. We try to win one pitch at a time and go from there.”

What’s now in front of the Bronchos (23-12-1) is a matchup with defending state champion Southlake Carroll in the regional semifinals. Time, date and site of the playoff are to be determined.

Odessa High used a seven-run sixth inning to rally in Game 2 after Montwood took a 6-4 lead in the top half of the inning. In Game 3, the Bronchos exploded for 10 runs in the third inning on the way to ending the series with a run-rule victory.”

In Game 2, Jordan Munoz homered in the third inning to tie the game at 2, then doubled in two runs in the sixth to tie it at 6. Cristian Baeza put Odessa High ahead to stay with a two-run single and Zack Attaway added a two-run triple to make it 10-6.

In Game 3, Hervey Nieto hit a three-run blast to break thing open in the third. Bobby Salinas started the onslaught with an RBI single and capped it with a two-run triple.

The Bronchos finished the day with 24 hits over the two games, including three doubles, two triples and two home runs. That was too much for Montwood (23-19) to overcome.

“Odessa has a great hitting team and my hat is off to them,” Montwood coach Willie Romo said. “In the first game today we just didn’t defend as well as we could have and Odessa High took advantage. In the deciding game, they kept the hot bats going.”

Gibrian Pena and Salinas both finished a combined 3 for 8 and Cristian Baeza as 3 for 6. Salinas and Baeza each had four RBIs for the day with Salinas going 3 for 4 with four RBIs in Game 3.

“We’ve said it as a staff a lot, we’ve got a 1 through 9 that can swing it and put up a bunch of runs,” Hulin said. “We’ve got some guys who can run, who can burn out there. You get those guys on base and we’ve got some boys who have some pop. We just kind of put it all together at the end of Game 2 and into Game 3.”

“I’m proud of the guys. They’ve worked really hard for this, but the season’s not over. We don’t want to act like this is the end.”

Somewhat overshadowed by the offensive production were two more solid pitching outings by Salinas and Nick Arenivas when Odessa High’s season was on the line.

Salinas (6-3) got the win in Game 2, giving up six runs, four earned, on 12 hits while striking out three and walking none. He escaped a bases-loaded jam in the third inning and bounced back after allowing the Rams to take leads of 2-0 in the first, 4-3 in the fourth and 6-4 in the sixth.

Arenivas (5-3) took advantage of the offensive support, holding Montwood to a run on four hits. He struck out three, including pinch-hitter Josue Caballero with the bases loaded to end the series.

“That’s back-to-back Saturdays now that Salinas and Arenivas have just competed their tails off for us,” Hulin said. “They rely on their defense to make plays for them. They do exactly what we ask them to do, throw a ton of strikes and let the other team put the ball in play and we’ll make defensive plays.

“It was just an all-around effort, good pitching, good defense and good hitting.”

In Game 2, Odessa High trailed 2-1 when Munoz connected with one out off Montwood starter Alizaeh Gutierrez. Nieto followed with a single, stole second and scored from there on Baeza’s infield hit.

“The guys in front of me took a lot of pitches and let me focus up on deck to time it right,” Munoz said. “When I went up there, I was looking to do was hit the ball for my team. I just wanted to get base hits.

“We were all communicating together. We were all paying attention to the pitcher. We were just swinging the bats better than we usually do.”

Gutierrez reached the pitch limit in the fifth inning and the Bronchos teed off on Bobby Loya (1-8) in the sixth.

In Game 3, Nieto’s homer made it 5-0 and the Bronchos kept it going, sending 14 batters up against Montwood pitchers Eric Villagomez (3-3), Noah De La Riva and Jesus Campa.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me. In my first at bats, I always get a groundout or a strikeout,” said Nieto, who grounded out in his first at bat of Game 2 and struck out to start Game 3. “I just come out 10 times stronger mentally. I just saw the ball and drove it the other way how I’ve been practicing.

“After I got in, everybody was hyped up and we put more runs on the board. We just kept swinging the bats.”