Coyotes head to Div. II title game
Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune
Madera Coyotes baseball seniors David Zavala and Marcus DeFranco (13) embrace as the rest of the Coyotes celebrate a 3-1 semifinal victory over El Diamante to send them to the Div. II Central Section championships against Arroyo Grande.
The Madera Coyotes baseball team took advantage of El Diamante-Visalia miscues to record a 3-1 victory in the Div. II semifinals to earn its first Central Section championship appearance since winning the title in 2013.
“We came out with more energy than they did,” head coach Andy Underwood said. “They played a little tight and on their heels a little bit.”
After third-seeded El Diamante scored a run in the fourth, the sixth-seeded Coyotes battled back for two runs in the fifth and another in the sixth for the victory.
The Coyotes play at Arroyo Grande on Friday for the Div. II championship.
Nathaniel Martinez picked up the win on the mound. He tossed 5 2/3 innings of four-hit ball. He allowed one run with eight strikeouts and two walks.
“He saw a lot of 3-2 counts and that’s why we had to pull him because hit his pitch count limit,” Underwood said. “I thought he was getting stronger as the game went on. He was pulling off on a lot of fastballs early in the game. He gutted up for us today.”
“I had a lot of adrenaline early in the game,” Martinez said. “My curveball and slider was working well, the slider, especially.”
Nathan Palacioz came in relief and allowed three hits over 1 1/3 innings, but didn’t allow a run to earn the save.
The Coyotes were outhit by the Miners (7-4), but the Coyotes took advantage of four El Diamante errors that led to two unearned runs.
David Zavala, Isaiah Monge, Izaak Murillo and Mathew DelToro all had hits — singles— for the Coyotes.
In an old fashioned dogfight, neither team pushed over a run through the first three innings. Both teams left runners at third, but couldn’t get the two-out hit.
El Diamante broke the scoreless game in the bottom of the fourth. With one out, El Diamante had three straight hitters reach on singles, the last one scoring the first run of the game.
Martinez bore down and struck out the next batter with runners at second and third after a stolen base. He ended the inning with a groundout, but the Miners led 1-0.
The Coyotes came back with a pair of runs in the top of the fifth.
With an 0-2 count, lead-off batter Ivan Ponce hit a grounder to short that was misplayed to reach.
“We had two strikes with Ponce up and we put a ball in play,” Underwood said. “They kicked it and that started it for us.”
Murillo sacrificed Ponce to second
Isaac Flores hit another grounder to short. The El Diamante shortstop threw wide of first and the ball got away. That allowed Ponce to score from second to tie the game while Flores advanced to second.
DelToro hit a bad hop single over the first baseman’s head to score Flores for a 2-0 lead.
Zavala reached on the third error of the inning by the El Diamante shortstop to put runners at first and third.
Logan Wattenbarger put down a bunt that went to the pitcher. However, DelToro was caught too far off of third and was tagged out for the second out of the inning.
Monge reached on El Diamante’s third error of the inning to load the bases.
Palacioz hit a grounder to short. The El Diamante shortstop, still feeling the yips, threw a short hop to the first baseman, who made a nice scoop to record the final out of the inning.
Pitching with the lead, Martinez struck out the side in the bottom of the fifth.
“It made me more comfortable, definitely,” Martinez said about pitching with the lead.
Madera added an insurance run in the top of the sixth. Evan Candelaria drew a four-pitch walk. Ponce sacrificed him to second.
Murillo followed with an opposite-field single to left to score Candelaria with a colision at the plate for a 3-1 lead.
Martinez took the mound in the bottom of the sixth with a 3-1 lead and got a groundout and a strikeout. However, he reached his 110-pitch count limit and enter Palacioz.
Palacioz hit the first batter he saw, but got a flyout to Murillo in left to end the inning.
After Madera went down in order in the top of the seventh, Palacioz allowed a lead-off single in the seventh.
However, he got a 6-4-3 (Monge-Ponce-Nick Sweet) double play to clear the bases. El Diamante got a pair of two-out singles before Palacioz induced a flyout to center, which centerfield Zavala made the easy catch to send the Coyotes to the Div. II Central Section Championship game.