Chico Nuts beat Redding Tigers 4-3
CHICO >> Chico Nuts coach Tom Stevens works with his players on the idea of having quality at-bats, whether it be working a count, getting a hit, or laying down a good bunt. The Nuts did string some of those quality AB”s together on Friday night. It just took a while.
The Nuts scored four times in the eighth inning to get their first win of the year, 4-3 over the Redding Tigers in American Legion baseball action at Doryland Field in Chico.
Before that go-ahead eighth inning, however, the Nuts couldn”t buy a rally. The first six Chico batters were sent down in order as Redding pitchers combined to strike out eight on the night. They managed to load the bases in the bottom of the third on two walks from Matt Gomes and Tanner Andoe and an opposite field single to left from Matt Henderson. But a double play followed to leave three stranded on base.
In the eighth, though, the Tigers switched out their right-handed starter for a change-of-pace lefty on the mound. Andoe led off the inning with a walk and took second on a wild pitch. Henderson followed with a triple to deep left to score Andoe for the Nuts” first run, making it a 3-1 deficit. The switch-hitter said he made a few adjustments for the new hurler, with some satisfying results.
“I scooted up in the box, adjusted from there and took the best hack I could,” Henderson said.
Henderson said the rest of the lineup had more focus in the eighth, and it showed. Ian Melton, who also had a double on the night, scored Henderson on an RBI groundout to second. Jackson Murphy was hit by a pitch, and Greg Darms singled to right field to put the tying run at second.
Marcus Wilhite slapped a hard grounder to the Tigers” first baseman, who threw down to second to start a potential double play. The throw glanced off the shortstop”s glove, bringing Murphy around to tie the game. Garrett Ferreira was plunked to load the bases, and Samson Abernathy came up with a hustle play to give Chico the lead. Abernathy slapped a grounder that the Redding second baseman fumbled before making a throw to first, and Abernathy went in safely with a head-first slide. A run scored and Chico (1-3) took its first lead of the game, 4-3.
“We had better at-bats later,” Stevens said. “In that one inning, we had some great at-bats. Matt”s triple was big. Garrett getting hit by a pitch was big, and Samson was aggressive at the plate. He put the ball in play and gave us a great 90. That was the ball game.”
Of course, the entire rally may not have meant anything had it not been for Pleasant Valley”s Nick Jackson. The starter shook off early trouble to throw seven innings of two-run ball, with six strikeouts and four hits. Ross Cervantes relieved in the eighth and allowed a run, but threw a 1-2-3 ninth to get the win.
Stevens said Jackson has grown tremendously since he last wore a Nuts uniform, and Jackson pitched like it on Friday. He escaped a jam in the second, where a leadoff walk scored on a double down the third base line, and in the third, this time with a little help from his defense. After another walk, Redding tagged a ball out to deep left. But a great relay easily nailed the runner at the plate. The Tigers struck back with another hard hit ball to score a runner from second, but Jackson worked a strikeout to end the rally.
From there, Jackson settled down. He sent down six consecutive batters in the fourth and fifth innings and had faced the minimum 12 batters over the last four frames when he departed after the seventh. The only blemish was a single that just escaped Abernathy”s diving reach at third, but was erased with a double play ball moments later.
“I think there is a tremendous amount of growth. He seems so much more calm with himself and his abilities,” Stevens said. “He”s not trying to do more than what the situation dictates. I think he”s going to have a good season for us.”
The win was Chico”s first of the year, though Stevens said the Nuts are much more concerned with the process than with the scoreboard. They will be back at it today with a doubleheader against Walbech Baseball, beginning at 11 a.m. at Appeal Democrat Park.