The ball was hit to Fabian Perez’s left. He raced over and got in front of it, but it got away from him a bit. Unfazed, the Beatty shortstop gathered in the ball and fired it to first base for the out and what was undoubtedly the defensive play of the game.
The play was so good cheers even came from the Indian Springs bench, and the Thunderbirds’ first-base coach complimented Perez on his way to the dugout at the end of the inning.
“He stayed with that ball,” Beatty coach Leo Verzilli said. “He knocked it down, stayed with it, threw him out … that was a really great play.”
Perez isn’t even the Hornets’ regular shortstop, but Armando Gonzalez took a turn on the mound Tuesday, so Perez stepped in. “He’s a good infielder, and he has a pretty good arm,” Verzilli said.
The three-sport athlete is also a sophomore, one of five on the 14-man roster. Three more are freshmen, which means they are enrolled in Verzilli’s Baseball 101 class.
“We don’t have a Little League program,” he explained. “We don’t have a T-ball program. Amargosa doesn’t have it. So our kids come to us raw.
“They don’t come in as freshmen and know how to judge a fly ball or know how to throw or own a glove. It’s hard to teach them and prepare them for high school baseball. At this level, to catch up, it takes two or three years to get even, then you only have them for their junior and senior years, maybe. There’s a lot that goes into it, and we can’t catch up fast enough.”
On Tuesday, the Thunderbirds used 13 walks and two hit batters to forge a 14-0 victory, and they were very kind about it. Several times, Indian Springs coaches kept their kids from advancing on balls that ordinarily would have been wild pitches, trying to avoid the 15-run mercy rule. They basically handed the Hornets the chance to bat in the top of the fifth instead of ending the game earlier.
And that mattered, a little, as Beatty kept a bit of dignity. One out away from a five-inning perfect game, junior Jacob Henry grounded a ball to second base that was misplayed. Henry hustled down the line and was safe on the error, giving Beatty its first base runner. By then, the Thunderbirds had 20.
Only five of those were on hits, which brings up Beatty’s other issue: Somebody has to pitch.
“We’ve got one experienced pitcher, and the others are just learning,” Verzilli said. “You don’t even need really good pitchers. You need one good one and a couple that will just throw strikes. Then you’ve got to have five or six kids who can throw the ball over the plate or you’ll never make it through the playoffs.”
Fielding a team with more seniors, the Hornets reached the playoffs last year after finishing second in the Class 1A Central League. But they finished third in the regionals, short of making the state tournament.
“Those seniors came up through the ranks,” Verzilli said. “They weren’t that good either, and they became good.”
Verzilli never will have the luxury of simply plugging in new players to fill holes left by seniors, but he does see some potential in the younger players on the current roster.
“There are three or four sophomores and three or four freshmen, so we’ll have a group of eight or nine that will have a few years of experience,” he said. “The majority of our 15 kids are sophomore and freshmen with no experience. You can tell our sophomores are much better than our freshmen.”
Verzilli is especially high on Perez and freshman Brayden Lynn, and he sees potential in sophomore outfielders Miguel Castro and Efrain Villanueva.
“Everybody’s going to pull their weight,” Verzilli said. “We’ve got a good sophomore class and a couple of freshmen that are on their way. The rest of those freshmen are kind of raw.
“They’re headed the right way, it just takes longer than you want it to take.”
Contact Sports Editor Tom Rysinski at firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter:@pvtimes
The mercy rule is designed to prevent a team from running up the score on an opponent. It has been modified over the years, but in most instances, it means one of two situations has occurred.
If a team holds a 15-run lead after at least three innings have been played, the game is declared over. If a team holds a 10-run lead after at least five innings have been played, the game ends.
As an example, if Team A leads 13-2 after three innings, the game continues. Should Team A hold that same lead after five innings, the game is over, and if Team A is the home team, it would not bat in the bottom of the fifth.