HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL: Morales, Herrera lift Odessa High past Amarillo Tascosa to begin district play

MIDLAND Odessa High senior shortstop Robert Morales sprinted to short left-center field after the crack off the bat of Amarillo Tascosa sophomore outfielder Santiago Sandoval.

Morales made an over-the-shoulder catch and skipped over a sliding center fielder Jacob Munoz for the final out in the Bronchos’ District 2-6A opener.

The catch and shutout performance from Shandon Herrera on the mound helped the Odessa High baseball team take a 1-0 victory against the Rebels during the Tournament of Champions on Thursday at Security Bank Ballpark.

“It just comes naturally,” Morales said with a smile about the catch. “In practice, I’ll try to make amazing plays, make dives and get whatever I can get to. If I play hard at practice, that’s what I’ll do in a game.”

Herrera, who needed 101 pitches for the complete-game shutout, believed once Morales was in the outfield the senior shortstop would make the catch.

The Odessa High senior right-hander stifled Amarillo Tascosa (1-5 overall, 0-1 District 2-6A). Herrera allowed four walks, two hits and hit one batter, finishing with seven strikeouts.

He struck out at least one batter in five of the seven innings.

“I have 100 percent faith in him and I knew he was going to make that play,” Herrera said. “I’m proud of him.”

Odessa High head coach Josh Hulin was pleased with the catch and communication between the three fielders — Morales, Munoz and Bo Martinez — attempting to make the final out.

“It was a really cool play, especially to end the game,” Hulin said. “If that ball falls, Tascosa is tying up the game. It was a great play. (Morales) called it as early as he could. It was executed perfect, because he stayed high and Jacob went low, so there wasn’t going to be a collision or anything like that.”

In addition to catching the final out, Morales also scored the lone run in the contest on an RBI fielder’s choice from Munoz. The Bronchos (5-2, 1-0) managed four hits, but never had more than one in an inning. Amarillo Tascosa sophomore right-handed pitcher Mason Martinez limited Odessa High’s chances to extend innings with six strikeouts.

Bo Martinez supplied a game-high two hits, while Christian Anaya and Herrera each had one. Jon Arce and Jack Stroud each had a hit for the Rebels (1-5, 0-1).

“It was good to win and be ahead in the district, but tomorrow we have two major games,” Morales said. “We have to forget about this one. It was a good win, but we have to make sure that we just win one game at a time.”

Security Bank Ballpark will be Odessa High’s home away from home for the next two days of the tournament. By the end of the tournament, the Bronchos will have played four of their five games on the home field of the Midland RockHounds.

Hulin doesn’t know how the team swung this opportunity, but he will gladly play at a minor league ballpark. Odessa High plays a doubleheader at Security Bank Ballpark beginning with El Paso Eastwood at 10 a.m. today and Weatherford at 1 p.m.

“It really cool that we get to play here so many times,” Hulin said. “I don’t know why (Midland High head coach Barry Russell) and (Midland Lee head coach Brian Roper) scheduled us to do that. We usually get to play here once or twice, but we get to play here four out of five games. It’s a Double-A ballpark and it’s in great shape, so we just going to enjoy it.”

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