Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera’s Nikayha Castro rips a double to drive in the Coyotes’ second run of the game during a 4-3, 10-inning walk-off victory over the Madera South Stallions. Castro also picked up the win by throwing the final seven innings Friday night.
It doesn’t matter the sport or the venue, when Madera South and Madera square off, there are always fireworks.
The Madera Coyotes baseball team, undefeated at home and in the running for a County/Metro Athletic Conference title, came into the game coming off back-to-back wins — winning those with the help of 17 runs.
While Friday’s game culminated in a 4-3 10-inning walk-off win over the young Madera South Stallions, getting there was a much tougher than previous outings.
“It was a win, (but) it wasn’t pretty,” Madera Coyotes head coach Andy Underwood said. “We left probably 20-plus, or around that on base. It’s a win and it’s good to be 1-0 in the CMAC. It’s a tough league this year.”
Tommy Molina’s game-winning sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 10th inning drove Shane Pursell home for the win. Pursell came up clutch for the Coyotes, scoring the game-tying run in the bottom of the seventh after Nick Luna tripled to tie the game late and later tripled in the bottom of the tenth inning to set up the game-winning run.
But the story was pitching. Underwood intended to give multiple guys innings during the game, but his plan quickly changed.
This allowed Nikayha Castro to prove his importance to the Coyotes’ pitching staff. The sophomore tossed seven strong innings after Madera South put three on the board in the top of the third.
His ability to throw first-pitch strikes and his concentration on the mound was evident as he shut the door on Madera South.
“Our game plan got thrown off today. We were planning on using four different guys, but when it was 3-1 in the third inning, things changed,” Underwood said. “I was trying to get everyone bullpen action and it didn’t work out. Nikaya had to basically throw seven innings, but he’s a starter. He’s solidified a one or two for us.”
Castro got the win, but Madera South’s Seth Goodrich also deserved praise on the mound for his strong performance against one of the best teams in the CMAC.
The senior pitched seven innings, while adding six strikeouts and six walks, including a hit and an RBI at the plate. Goodrich went toe-to-toe with the Coyotes, but couldn’t find the finish at the end of the seventh inning.
“I’m so proud of our boys. We started four freshman and a sophomore, and we just showed so much heart,” Madera South head coach Alan Sandoval said. “This is Seth’s first year pitching and he just amazes me every time he takes the mound. He thinks he’s the best pitcher in the Valley and he convinces me every time he goes out there.”
In his first year as head coach of the Stallions, Sandoval faced his next-door rivals for the first time in his first CMAC opener. Despite the result, Sandoval was complimentary his young Stallions, but also his opponents across the diamond.
With the help of pitching coach Bobby Waits, former head coach of the Stallions, Sandoval has a lifeline he can lean on.
“He runs the pitching staff and he just knows a lot. Whenever I have a question or I need advice, I know I can always go to him. I’m glad he’s on the staff,” Sandoval said. “The fact that he trusted me to take over the program and then stuck around to help me out, that’s huge. It’s going to help me down the road, big time.”
For the third game in a row, the Coyotes scored within the first two innings.
Luna opened the game with a single, but later advanced to third base on a throwing error on Goodrich. Luna was, subsequently, brought home after infielder Cole Brincefield singled.
The Coyotes showed their class early, but things soon changed in favor of Madera South.
In the top of the third, Madera South began to threaten Kristian Gomez, who opened the night for the Coyotes on the mound.
The Stallions put pressure on Gomez after freshman Bryan Malagon walked to open the inning, followed by a bloop singled to right field by freshman infielder Triston “Murf” Gray, who had two hits in five plate appearances, but none bigger than his third-inning knock.
Goodrich followed with an RBI single that drove Malagon home to tie the game at one.
The Stallions weren’t satisfied. Jalen Gray singled, driving in both Murf and Goodrich for a 3-1 lead.
In came Castro and the Stallions’ bats went silent.
Madera’s offense had its best chance in bottom of the third inning. Luna walked and Molina singled before Castro doubled to deep center driving Luna home to make it 3-2.
Jordan De La Rosa walked to load the bases, but the Coyotes were retired to end the threat.
In the top of the fourth, Castro began to settle in on the mound. He faced three batters and struck out the side.
Madera couldn’t find its way back until its back was against the wall.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, with the game on the line, Pursell reached base with a two-strike single. Pursell battled back in the count and earned the Coyotes a single. He then stole second base to get into scoring position.
Luna stepped up and hammered a triple to bring in Pursell to tie the score. Madera still had a chance for more. Madera South intentionally walked two Coyotes to load the bases.
Unfortunately for Madera, it didn’t pan out to anything as the Stallions escaped.
Madera South’s strategy to intentionally walk didn’t pay off in the bottom of the 10th after a lead-off triple by Pursell forced two more intentional walks to load the bases.
This set up Molina for the game-winning RBI. That’s exactly what he did as he sent a fly ball to left field that was caught for an out, but Pursell scored the game-winning run to walk off a Coyotes’ victory.