By MIKE PHILLIPS / Corsicana Sun
Navarro Athletic Director Roark Montgomery stood in the press box moments after Matt ‘Pudge’ Podjenski’s Bulldogs beat Hill 8-7 to win on opening day and hand Podjenski his first win as a head coach.
“Well,” Montgomery said. “He’s the only undefeated coach in Navarro history.”
One-and-oh never felt so good.
“It feels good,” Podjenski said. “Hopefully, it’s the first of many. You’ve got to get the first one before you can move one. It’s exciting to get it out of the way with the first game.”
It wasn’t easy, and by the top of the ninth Podjenski might have wished he was somewhere else. Navarro built an 8-2 lead on the strength of a six-run sixth inning, but Hill scored two in the seventh, two in the eighth and opened the ninth with three hits, closing the gap to 8-7 with runners at second and third and nobody out.
Podjenski stuck with closer Jorge Flores, who got into the jam and then found a way out of it. Flores went to his fastball and got a strikeout to take some pressure off and then got the biggest break of the game. Hill tried a suicide squeeze play, but the batter missed the ball and the runner from third was tagged out easily in front of home plate .
“After that play I kind of relaxed,” Flores said. “I knew I had to throw strikes. I knew the game was on the line and I had to come through in the clutch.”
Flores struck out Ben Hollas, who had blown the suicide play, swinging to nail down the win.
“I thought about moving the infield in and decided not to with runners to second and third,” Podjenski said. “We went with fastballs. They were hitting his curve, and we just went with fastballs. You gotta give credit to Jorge. He did a great job and made pitches when he had to.”
Relief (no pun intended) mixed with celebration as the kids talked about how much they wanted to win the game for their new coach, who had been an assistant at Navarro for six years.
“We really wanted to win it for Pudge,” said Navarro shortstop, who had an RBI double in the wild Navarro sixth. “It’s awesome to get that first win for him, but I bet he was a little nervous at the end.”
Then Hesse added: “We had total confidence in Jorge, and he got the job done.”
“It feels great to get the win for Pudge,” said Sam McDonnell, who followed Hesse with an RBI double in the sixth.
The Bulldogs scored twice in the second when Hunter Seales and Ryan Thomas singled and Garrett Venner drove in a run with a sacrifice fly and Luke Hoyl followed with an RBI double, and then broke up a 2-2 tie in the sixth. Dylan Lewis drove in two runs with a bases loaded single up the middle and Kenniel Rivera had a two-run triple before Hesse and McDonnell drove in runs.
Navarro used five pitchers, including starter Heath Donica, a Corsicana High grad who went three innings and struck out five without allowing a walk. He gave up one run on four hits.
Blake Whitehead pitched a scoreless sixth and picked up the win because he was in the right place at the right time.
“You’ve got to get people out there,” said Podjenski who used a lot of pitchers and some backup players. “We have to know what people can do. I like our pitching staff and still feel it’s going to be the strength of our team.
“Offensively, I thought we did a good job all day and we had some big hits in the sixth. Mason and Kenniel had two-strike hits, hitting the ball the other way. They did a good job going the other way.”
Pudge is on his way at 1-0.