HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL: Morales provides late lift as Odessa High defeats Wolfforth Frenship

Odessa High’s Robert Morales used an over-the-shoulder catch in short left-center field to seal the Bronchos baseball team’s first District 2-6A victory two weeks ago against Amarillo Tascosa.

Thursday, Morales made an impact at the plate, and on the mound, to help Bronchos to first place in the district standings.

The Bronchos senior supplied the go-ahead three-run triple in the bottom of the fifth inning and pitched the final two innings for the save as Odessa High defeated Wolfforth Frenship 5-4 at Pressly Field.

“I try to do anything to help my team win,” Morales said. “Anything my coach asks me to do, I’m ready to do it. I’ve always been that type of person. I’ve always been coachable. I’ve always tried to practice every aspect of the game.”

With the victory, the Bronchos improved to 12-6 overall, 2-0 in District 2-6A, while the Tigers dropped to 9-9, 1-1.

Odessa High head coach Josh Hulin said Morales provided the game-changing hit, but he knows there were a multiple contributions throughout the lineup.

Hulin mentioned the performances from starting pitcher Joshua Armendariz and left fielder Christian Anaya. Armendariz picked up the win after he threw 79 pitches through five innings. The senior right-handed pitcher allowed three runs (one earned) on seven hits and stranded six Wolfforth Frenship runners.

Anaya supplied a two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the first inning to tie the contest, 2-2, after the Tigers struck for two runs in the top of the frame.

“There were multiple plays in the game that helped us win it,” Hulin said. “Christian with a two-out single in the first inning was big to get some momentum back on our side and obviously Joshua throwing five innings for us and another quality start out of him. There were a lot of factors in that game.”

The Bronchos didn’t let Wolfforth Frenship starting pitcher Brock Erculiani, who threw a complete game shutout against Permian in the District 2-6A opener, settle in during the first inning, forcing the left-hander to throw 32 pitches in the frame.

Wolfforth Frenship head coach Chad Reynolds said after the first three outs Erculiani fell into a groove over the second, third and fourth innings where he gave up no runs and two hits on 28 pitches. The Tigers held a 3-2 advantage after the fourth inning.

“He got off to a rough start, but credit Odessa High they had a good start,” Reynolds said about Erculiani, who threw 4.1 innings in the loss. “He settled into the game and things kind of evened out. Credit Odessa High, they got the big hit at the right time and that’s what won them the game.”

In the bottom of the fifth with the bases loaded and one out, Wolfforth Frenship went to its bullpen with relief pitcher Bradden Kennard. The senior right-hander’s first batter was Morales, who battled through five pitches before he connected on the three-run triple that rolled to the right-field fence, giving the Bronchos a 5-3 lead.

A pinch runner came in for Morales, because the senior was called upon to pitch the final two innings. The Tigers scored one run in the top of the sixth inning, but Morales retired the opposition in order on 10 pitches in the seventh.

“I was sitting back and relying on that fastball to come in, so I could drive it the other way,” Morales said about the three-run triple. “I was trying to be relaxed up there and not really think about the bases being loaded. I was thinking about getting the next guy up. I was just trying to do my part and find a way on. Everything fell into place.”

Morales finished a game-high three hits, which included the Bronchos lone extra-base hit. Wolfforth Frenship’s Dylan Merritt, Landon Everett, Zariah Pacheco and Mason Weathers each finished with two hits. Merritt posted one triple, while Pacheco and Weather had a double.

The Bronchos continue their season hosting Midland High at noon Saturday at Pressly Field.

“The game of baseball is set up, especially at the highest level that you play all the time and I kind of like that about our game,” Hulin said. “Once you get into district, every game is super important and you are going to see everybody’s top guy, which makes it a lot of fun. The teams that survive and can get into the playoffs are going to be battle tested.”

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