Stallions capture tourney title
Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune
The Madera South baseball team celebrates with the Central Valley Diamond Classic championship plaque after a 6-1 victory Saturday over the Sanger Apaches. Murf Gray tossed a complete game three-hitter while delivering two hits on offense in the victory.
SANGER — Behind the right arm and hot bat of Murf Gray, the Madera South Stallions defeated the Sanger Apaches to win the Central Valley Diamond Classic and improve to a school record-best 9-0.
Gray tossed a complete-game three-hitter in the 6-1 victory Saturday at Sanger. He struck out nine and walked one. He also went 2-for-4 at the plate with a double, run scored and an RBI.
“When he’s on the mound, I just feel like he’s going to get out of it and he did,” head coach Alan Sandoval said.
The Stallions banged out nine hits and broke open a pitcher’s dual with a five- run fifth inning for the win.
“It was amazing to get the runs,” Gray said. “As a pitcher, to see your team work hard for you, it feels good.”
Along with Gray, Xavier Cantu and Jasir Alvarez each hit doubles. Alvarez, Gray and A.J. Rocha each had two hits.
“It just shows how much we’ve grown, how they’ve gotten better and how much confidence they have,” Sandoval said. “It’s a great group. As long as I’ve been here, this is as tight knit group I’ve had.”
The Stallions really didn’t get a chance to show how much they were improved last year, but this year’s team built around juniors, including Gray — Rocha is the team’s lone senior — is ready to show how good they can be.
“This is an amazing year for us,” Cantu said. “We’re breaking records left and right.”
“This feels great and we need to keep working hard,” Gray said. “We have to get back to it at practice Monday.”
“This is my first CMAC opponent I’ve beaten,” Sandoval said. “This gives us confidence in the next three games and right into league.”
The Stallions have their biggest test of the season Wednesday when they host the Clovis Cougars for a 3:30 p.m. game. They also host Kerman on Saturday at 10 a.m.
Although the Stallions put runners on base in three of the four innings against Sanger, it still seemed like Apache ace Andrew Herrera was in control. He struck out eight and allowed five earned runs in four innings of work.
However, Gray was up to the task. He loaded the bases in the third. With two outs and a runner at second, he hit a batter and walked another to load the bases. However, he struck out the next batter to get out of the inning unscathed.
“I was getting squeezed a little,” Gray said. “I was upset a little, but I just had to pitch through it.”
Madera South sent 10 batters to the plate to break the game open in the fifth. Anthony Gamiz and Brian Monges were both hit by pitches to open the inning. Gray doubled down the left field line to drive in Gamiz.
Elijah Tang came up with runners at second and third with nobody out in a two-run game. Sandoval let Tang hit and he came through with a single up the middle to score Monges
“Tang has been hot,” Sandoval said. “I wanted to see him swing the bat.”
Rocha followed with a single to left to drive in Gray and Cantu put the exclamation mark on the inning with a double to right-center to drive in Tang.
“I wanted to help my teammates out and do my job,” Cantu said.
After a change in pitchers, Rocha came in to score on a wild pitch for a 5-0 lead.
Giving Gray a 5-0 lead is like taking a 42-0 lead at halftime of a football game. The game is over then and Gray only had three more innings to go.
Gray allowed a two-out run in the fifth on a double, a single and a fielder’s choice. The fielder’s choice was an attempt at a force at second to end the inning, but the umpire ruled Madera South was off the bag and that allowed a run to score.
Madera South added a run in the seventh, but it was a moot point by then. Rocha started the rally with a single up the middle. Xavier Cantu was hit by a pitch. Two batters later, Alvarez doubled to left-center to drive in pinch-runner Joseph Cosio. The next two batters were retired, but Gray led by five runs.
Gray settled down from the fifth, retiring the final seven batters in order to finish out the game. He closed out the game in fitting fashion — by strikeout.