Defense helps Central to 3rd straight shutout

Central High School catcher Kyle Serrano saw the Rangeview runner stray too far from second base, so he threw down to the bag. No more lead runner in scoring position.

Then, it was center fielder Josh Weller’s turn. Consecutive batters hit balls toward the gap in left-center, and Weller got there each time, on the run, leaning forward to make the catch for outs two and three.

That ended Rangeview’s half of the second inning with no runs after putting runners on first and second with no outs.

No wonder winning pitcher Noah Sanchez threw with confidence.

No wonder Central (4-1) has shut out three opponents in a row, Rangeview serving as the latest victim in the Warriors’ 11-0 nonleague baseball win Friday at Canyon View Park.

“Basically, I was so confident with our defense today,” said Sanchez, who went the distance in a game shortened to five innings by the run rule. “Second inning, we got two diving catches from Weller. Our shortstop (Jeremy Champlin) makes all the plays on balls hit to him. ... It was just a good, all-out-team-defense win.”

Sanchez, of course, did his part, facing the minimum nine batters in the final three innings, in part because after he allowed a one-out single in the third inning, second baseman Alex Schaneman snared a ball headed up the middle, took a few steps to touch second, then fired to first base for a double play.

After that, Sanchez just rocked and fired in retiring the side in order in the fourth and fifth, collecting four of his seven strikeouts and twice punching out batters on three pitches.

“I’d start them off with fastballs, then throw my curveball and slider to keep them off balance, then go back to my fastball,” Sanchez said. “Keeping them off balance, that’s what I was trying to do.”

Central coach Chuck Yost praised Sanchez for throwing strikes and not worrying about Rangeview hitting the ball, “which is what you can do when you’ve got the lead.”

“He did a great job of getting ahead of the hitters,” Yost added.

Such was not the case for Rangeview’s pitchers against the Warriors’ batters, who had a combination of big hits, walks, misplayed fly balls in the outfield and a host of wild pitches fueling their offense.

The Raiders’ misplayed fly balls were a product of a strong crosswind, which made Weller’s catches in the second inning that much more impressive.

Yost called them potentially game-changing catches, adding, “If Josh doesn’t make those catches out in center, they’re probably doubles or triples. They get a couple runs, and it’s a whole new ballgame.”

Central’s biggest hit of the game was no beneficiary of the wind. Rather, it was a well-hit ball by Cole Rupe in the first inning, a double over the outfielder’s head to the right-center gap, and it scored three runs.

On the other end of the spectrum was Michael Price’s plate appearance in the bottom of the fourth. The Warriors’ cleanup hitter stepped into the batter’s box with the bases loaded, and eight pitches later he walked but was alone on the base paths. Three wild pitches — two were thrown behind him in the dirt — brought home three runs.

The win was Central’s fourth in a row, and the three straight shutouts are a tribute to a complete team effort, Weller said.

“Our pitching’s really on right now,” Weller said. “Our pitchers are throwing well, our defense is backing them up, and we’re hitting the ball well. Everything’s just going in our favor.”

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