Palo Verde pounces on Arbor View for baseball win

The Arbor View baseball team entered the day as one of three undefeated Class 4A teams in Southern Nevada. So Aggies coach Robert Salazar figured his team probably was due for a game like Friday’s.

“To be honest with you,” Salazar said, “we threw out a clunker.”

Host Palo Verde took advantage of three Arbor View errors and got a strong pitching performance from Dustin Morelli to earn an 8-2 Northwest League victory.

“It’s a big deal because they were (9-0), but it’s a bigger deal because it’s a division team,” Panthers coach Paul Churchfield said. “That team won our division last year.

“If we expect to win the division, that’s the kind of team we need to beat.”

Palo Verde (6-2, 2-1) scored five runs in the fourth inning, pouncing on two of the Aggies’ miscues. Alex Bonczyk reached on an error leading off and scored on Dan Jaffe’s safety squeeze. After Cody Schuster walked, No. 8 hitter Mike Pickrell delivered a two-run single to left field for a 5-1 lead.

One out later, Dillon Meyer reached on an error by Arbor View shortstop Zach Hartman, and two runs scored on the play to put the Panthers on top 7-1.

“We had maybe three or four at-bats where we weren’t competitive,” Churchfield said. “I think that was the difference for us. We put the ball in play and forced them to play catch.”

That was plenty of run support for Morelli, who went 6 1/3 solid innings, giving up seven hits and one earned run.
“That was as well as I’ve seen him pitch this year,” Churchfield said.

Morelli needed just 15 pitches to get through the first two innings — by comparison, Arbor View starter Josh Arnold threw 27 pitches in the first inning alone ­— and escaped a big jam in the fifth.

The Aggies (9-1, 2-1) put runners on first and third with no outs after back-to-back singles by Arnold and Nick Urban. However, Arnold was thrown out at home on the front end of a double steal. Tyler LeBaron then walked, and a wild pitch put runners on second and third, but Morelli got Marquis Towers and Hartman to fly out to end the threat.

“If they score there, who knows what happens,” Morelli said. “This is a really good confidence booster after the 12-1 loss against Cimarron-Memorial (Monday).

“We really needed to come back and show something this game, and we did.”

Arbor View loaded the bases with one out in the top of the seventh but saw the game end when Meyer threw out LeBaron at third base after Hartman’s sacrifice fly to center.

“They made plays when they had to, and we didn’t,” Salazar said. “We had too many negative counts and a lot of routine plays not made.

“You can’t do that in division play or you’re going to get bit.”

The Panthers jumped on Arnold immediately as Branden Hepworth and Christian Centrella singled in the first inning and came home on a two-run single by Brandon Laubhan.

Hepworth and Centrella each finished 2-for-4 with a run for the Panthers. Laubhan was 2-for-3 and scored twice.

Arnold, a left-hander, labored through four innings, allowing six hits while throwing 83 pitches. Chris Mannng and Urban went 2-for-3 for the Aggies.