The Pahrump Valley High School baseball team’s 4-game winning streak came to an abrupt halt Wednesday, as Shadow Ridge’s Mason Rhiner scattered 5 hits and struck out 7 in a 10-0 rout.
But Trojans coach Brian Hayes was happy with his team’s effort over the first three games of the Blazer Spring Bash in Las Vegas, and a loss to a solid Mustangs club wasn’t going to alter his mood.
“Shadow Ridge is probably the best team we’ve faced all year, by far,” Hayes said. “You can’t give them mistakes, they’re going to take what you give them, and they’re not going to give you very much.”
The Mustangs (16-8) gave the Trojans 10 base runners, yet they left only six on base. One was picked off first base, two were caught stealing and a fourth was erased on a double play in the sixth inning.
“We missed two signs and got thrown out at second on both of them,” Hayes said. “We missed a steal sign and a hit-and-run, and with a team that has a plus catcher you’re not going to be stealing off of him so we tried to manufacture something.”
And Rhiner gave them precious little to manufacture with, as all 5 hits were singles. The Trojans actually made some good contact, but the Shadow Ridge defense committed just one error, which gave Pahrump Valley a runner on second base with one out in the top of the first.
“We hit the ball pretty well but reverted back to our old funk about hitting with guys in scoring position,” Hayes said.
“The bottom line today is we eliminate a couple of those careless mistakes and we have a couple of timely hits, and it might change the whole outcome of the game,” Hayes said. “It was 2-0 going into the fifth, and we had opportunities in those first four innings to score a run or two.”
The Trojans had consecutive singles to open the second and had the leadoff batter on in the third, but nothing came of any of it. Meanwhile, the Trojans committed only one error, but it led to the Mustangs’ first run, which scored on a double play with the bases loaded.
As Hayes noted, the Mustangs led just 2-0 going into the bottom of the fifth, but the hosts came alive in that frame. Five hits and a walk led to 6 runs as Shadow Ridge chased Pahrump Valley starter Cyle Havel, then greeted reliever Roman Roberts with a 2-run double. The rest was academic.
“We told the kids not to hang their heads,” Hayes said. “For some of these 4A teams to throw some of their top pitchers against us is a plus. A lot of times they’ll see a 3A team and figure they’ll throw a young guy and get him work, and I think these guys kind of respect us enough to say we’re going to go after you. And that’s what we need to see.
“The level of baseball we’ve been playing doesn’t do us any good when we play good teams sometimes. You get a little too aggressive and you think you can do things that you’ve been doing all year and don’t understand that you have to adjust to the opponent.”
The Trojans came out swinging, with all four batters in the first inning swinging at the first pitch. The results weren’t good — an infield hit, two ground balls and a fly ball to left — but it showed Hayes’ players understood what they were up against in Rhiner.
“We tried to talk to them about approach,” Hayes said. “When we face a guy who has plus stuff, they have to be ready to jump on that first fastball. After that first inning, we told them to be ready to throw that other stuff. I thought we did a pretty good job laying off the off-speed pitch. If we see this level of pitching more, our timing will be a little better.”
Wednesday’s game was a far cry from Tuesday’s performance, when Pahrump Valley starter Jake Riding dominated Legacy.
The sophomore tossed six no-hit innings in an 11-0 shutout of the Longhorns, striking out 4 with 2 walks. He only needed 60 pitches to finish his first career no-hitter on a miserable day.
“It was one of those games where it was great that he threw well because it was nasty,” Hayes said. “The weather was really nasty, and he got out there, threw strikes and got us back in, and he got us out of there early so we could get out of the weather.
“It was cold and nasty and windy and rainy, and he went out there and threw strikes.”
For Riding, the formula for lowering his earned-run average to 0.78 and getting his fourth victory — tied with Havel for the team lead — was simple.
“It was all about location, pretty much,” Riding said.
Despite Riding’s youth, Hayes was counting on him to be part of the rotation from the beginning of the season.
“Jake’s been up with us all year,” the coach said. “We’ve had him as our number-three (starter) and he’s approaching being our number two right now. He’s thrown in a couple of noncompetitive games, and he threw Valley and threw very well. So we’re trying to see how he’ll do against better teams.
“Legacy (10-12) isn’t great, but they’re a good, solid team, and for anybody to go out there and throw a no-hitter on only 60 pitches … that kind of solidifies where he’s at.”
By winning three of four games at the Blazer Spring Bash, the Trojans will carry a 15-7 record into next week’s Coachella Valley Rotary Tournament at Rancho Mirage High School in California. They will face California foes Indio (17-3), Rancho Mirage (7-12), Coachella Valley (6-10) and Brawley (7-11) before returning home to get back into Sunset League play against Valley on April 24 and Del Sol on April 26.
Hayes, who liked much of what he saw of his offense, pitching and defense for most of the Blazer Spring Bash, thinks the key is to get all three performing at a high level.
“It’s just a matter of getting it all going at the same time and keeping it going into the playoffs,” he said.