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Stallions ride early lead to win

Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune

Madera South’s Murf Gray tosses a pitch during a 14-strikeout, four-hit performance to lead the Stallions to a 5-1 victory over Madera on Friday in Mel Parker Field.


The right arm of Madera South pitcher Murf Gray made three first inning runs stand up for a 5-1 victory over Madera in a County/Metro Athletic Conference game in Mel Parker Field.

Gray tossed 6 2/3 innings of four-hit ball. He allowed one run, struck out 14 batters and walked two. Gray hit his pitch count in the seventh and Brian Monges came in to get the final out.

“He was dominant all day,” Madera South head coach Alan Sandoval said. “He threw too many pitches in the first inning. That kind of bit us at the end. Monges came in and did a great job.”

“We got Murf Gray’d today,” Madera head coach Andy Underwood said.

The Stallions took advantage of a jittery Mark Huarte to score three runs in the first inning before adding two more in the seventh.

“Mark was up and a little jittery, but that’s expected as a freshman,” Underwood said. “It was a huge crowd, good environment, playing a good team, facing a good pitcher, he was a little jittery. I think if he was down in the zone a bit more and consistent and finds his breaking ball, it’s a little different in the first.”

Gray allowed a hanging curveball double to Madera’s Zachary Robbins that led to Madera’s lone run. Gray struck out the final batter of an inning in every inning he finished.

Little used J.J. Villanueva hit a key two-run, two-out single in the first to lead the Stallions.

“J.J. had a good at-bat against San Joaquin Memorial,” Sandoval said. “He’s been swinging it well at practice. He’s such a hard worker. I believe in good karma and he got rewarded for all his hard work. He got a fastball and drove it. That was the greatest feeling. That was my favorite at-bat of the year.”

The win over the Coyotes was the second for Madera South in two years. Last year’s victory in the second-to-last game of the regular season was the Stallions’ first over Madera since 2016.

“It’s nice to get a win over Madera,” Sandoval said. “We haven’t had a lot in the school’s history. It’s nice to get one. I learned that my first year here when we were little freshmen that no matter the talent level, it’s going to be hard-fought between the two schools.”

“We’re the little brother right now and trying to find our way,” Underwood said. “We have to find some leadership. We have start getting some plays go our way and catch a little momentum. They haven’t gone our way all year. We made mistakes internally. We’re young and we have to clean up. If we don’t clean them up, we’re going to lose.”

Madera South’s Brian Monges started off the first inning rally by hitting the first pitch of the game up the middle for a single.

After a line-out, Monges stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Gray drew a walk. Xavier Cantu flied out to right, but it was deep enough for Monges to score the first run of the game.

Johnathan Spraggins drew a walk and Anthony Gamiz reached on an error to load the bases. Villanueva stepped up and lined a single to left to drive in Gray and Spraggins for a 3-0 lead.

However, the Madera pitching staff kept the Stallions within striking distance. Huarte allowed just three baserunners until he was replaced in the fifth. Joel Arellano allowed a runner to third in the fifth, but was cruising until the seventh when Madera South added two more runs.

“Mark started throwing his breaking ball for a strike, which helped him out,” Underwood said. “He started getting weaker contact and got ahead in the count. He settled in and did well.”

Gray was a little unsettled in the first inning. After two quick outs, he walked Eric Wilson and Robbins, but struck out the next batter to end the inning.

He didn’t get threatened until the fourth when Robbins hit the first pitch of the fourth to deep left-center field.

Robbins advanced to third on a wild pitch and Ivan Castaneda laid down a safety squeeze to score Robbins that cut Madera South’s lead to 3-1.

“Defensively, we really didn’t make any miscues,” Sandoval said. “That was the difference in the game.”

Madera South threatened in the fifth when Gray reached on an error. He stole second and went to third on a wild pitch. However, Arellano struck out the next two batters to end the threat.

Elijah Tang led off the seventh inning with a bloop double down the left field line. After a groundout, Gilbert Moisa singled to right-center to drive in Tang for a 4-1 lead.

Gray reached on an error and Cantu drew a walk to load the bases. After a popout, Gamiz lined a single to right to drive in Moisa for a 5-1 lead.

Madera made some noise in the seventh inning. Castaneda led off with a single to left, but Gray got a flyout to Spraggins in left and a strikeout before his night was over.

Arellano reached on an error while Castaneda took third. Tyler Zamora drew a walk to load the bases. However, Monges got a groundout to second to end the game and give the Stallions a 5-1 victory.



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