The Northwest League’s final baseball playoff berth was on the line on Saturday at Cimarron-Memorial.
And Centennial wasted little time staking its claim to it.
The Bulldogs scored nine runs in the bottom of the first inning and rolled to a 13-3, five-inning win over Bonanza to secure a berth in the Sunset Region tournament.
“We talk all the time about how games are won and lost in the first inning,” Centennial coach Charlie Cerrone said. “While we didn’t win the game, we put ourselves in a great position to win the game in the first inning.”
The rally started with one out when Tanner Wright hit a popup to second base. Bonanza’s Micah Higa lost the ball in the sun, and it fell near his feet for a single. The next eight batters reached base as the Bulldogs took control.
Jake Portaro started the scoring with an RBI single, followed by a two-run double by Travis Stevens. Zachary Dixon followed that with an RBI double, and the rout was on.
Jake Rogers had a bad-hop single to push the lead to 5-0, and Jared Drizin, who had struck out to open the inning, hit a three-run triple off the base of the fence in left-center field to make it 8-0. Wright brought home Drizin with a sacrifice fly, and the Bulldogs (21-11) were firmly in control.
“Everybody had a good approach in the first inning and hit gap-to-gap,” Cerrone said. “Some of them got impatient in the middle of the game with a big lead, but hopefully we learned from that.”
Bonanza (15-15) cut the advantage to 9-2 on a two-run homer by Jay DeSoto in the second, and Centennial didn’t score again until the fourth.
But the Bulldogs were able to bring home four runs in the fourth and ended the game after the top of the fifth via the 10-run rule.
Hayden Grant lined a two-run homer to highlight the fourth-inning rally for Centennial.
Every player in Centennial’s lineup had a hit, and Grant, Rogers and Gino Sabey, the Nos. 7, 8 and 9 hitters in the lineup, combined to go 6-for-8 with four RBIs. Grant and Wright each went 2-for-2 to lead the 13-hit attack.
Kyle Horton went the distance to get the win for Centennial, allowing five hits and striking out four.
“We were happy to get out in five (innings),” Cerrone said. “We kind of rolled the dice going with Horton. We could have gone with Dixon today on short rest, but now we have him for Tuesday or Wednesday with full rest.”
The Bulldogs play at Bishop Gorman (24-2) in the Sunset Region tournament at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“It’s a tough playoff grouping, and we’ve got a tough team to play on Tuesday,” Cerrone said.
“We’re 0-0 going into the playoffs and hopefully we can play well. Last night was a good game for us, and today was a good game for us so hopefully we can use that as a springboard.”