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Baseball zone opener looms after Tuesday game at Blinn

By MIKE MONTFORT    —

Navarro baseball is scheduled to get its final non-conference work in Tuesday at Brenham with a 3 pm single game against the Blinn Buccaneers at Leroy Dreyer Field.

Looming Thursday is the start of the Region XIV East Zone season for coach Matt Podjenski’s two-time league champions and a big weekend series against the Angelina Roadrunners.  NC travels to Lufkin for a 3 pm, nine-inning single game before returning to Graham Field for a noon doubleheader Saturday.

First, however, the Bulldogs are looking for more self-improvement when the 5-8-1 club heads south to meet up with a Buccaneer team (9-6) that’s brandishing a five-game winning streak.

NC claimed three wins in a four-game series against the New Mexico Junior College Thunderbirds during the weekend. The Bulldogs swept Friday’s doubleheader 6-0 and 5-2 behind starting pitchers Paul Dickens and Tate Gillespie.  On Saturday, NC rallied from a 9-4 first-game setback to secure a 9-2 win behind lefthander Brandon Ivey.

GAME 1 Friday: Navarro 6, NMJC 0
Paul Dickens and Asher Cook combined on a one-hit shutout and struck out 9.  They coasted to the win after the Bulldogs batted 10 and scored five runs in the bottom of the first inning against losing lefthanded starter Alex Pinedo.

Run-scoring singles by Robert Salazar, Josh Ragan and Matt Munoz — abetted by three walks from Pinedo — created the fast start.

Dickens retired the first seven batters he faced before outfielder Jake Dickinson’s one-out single to left, but Dickinson was erased on the basepaths.

NC added a fifth-inning insurance run when Francisco Dejesus led off with a walk, took second base on a wild pitch by reliever Alvaro Castillo, moved to third on Beau Orlando’s ground out, and scored on Ragan’s single to left.

NMJC got two runners in scoring position in its sixth via a two-out, hit-batsman and a walk, Dickens fought through the difficulty and recorded his seventh strikeout by fanning Jesse Becton to end the threat.

Dickens went six innings and walked two and hit two batters, while striking out eight.

NMJC    000 000 0  — 0-1-1
Navarro 500 010  x  — 6-6-0

GAME 2 Friday: Navarro 5, NMJC 2
Tate Gillespie gave up five hits, two walks and one earned run with eight strikeouts in five innings to secure the Game 2 win.

Braden Williams led off the Bulldog second with is second home run of the season.

NMJC tied it in the third when leadoff hitter Larry Leitha tripled and scored on Chase Whetsel’s sacrifice fly to centerfield.  Navarro, however, reclaimed the lead in its half of the inning.  Layton Wolver tripled and scored the go-ahead run after Salazar was hit-by-pitch with the bases loaded.  Williams delivered his second run of the game wit a single.  Caleb Scires scored Navarro’s third run after Ragan’s sacrifice fly to centerfield.

Eric Sandoz and Mark Geisel worked in relief for NC.

NMJC      001  000  1  –  2-7-2
Navarro   013  001  x  — 5-4-1

GAME 1 Saturday: NMJC 9, Navarro 4
The Thunderbirds scored six in the sixth inning against relievers Asher Cook and Brady Mehl, sparked by Ryan Rijo’s three-run double.

NMJC starter Dylan Bein and reliever Braeden Holub combined on a six-hitter with 14 strikeouts.

Navarro starter Ivan Ulloa threw 96 pitches in 4.2 innings, yielding four hits, four walks and three earned runs.  The lefthander struck out six.

Williams, Dejesus and Ragan singled for the Bulldogs.

GAME 2 Saturday:  Navarro 9, NMJC 2
Navarro banged out nine hits off NMJC pitchers in the nightcap — two each by Matt Munoz, Noah Menchaca, Beau Orlando and Caleb Scires.

Orlando scored three runs and knocked in three.  Scires went 2-for-3, with a walk, a stolen base and drove in two to back the pitching of Brandon Ivey, who gave up five hits, four walks and one earned run while striking out eight over the course of five innings.