Second-year Palo Verde baseball coach Joe Hallead is hoping to make the Panthers into one of the area’s top programs, and he’s always looking to gauge the program’s progress against quality opponents.
Thursday’s game showed that the Panthers are ready to battle the area’s best.
Palo Verde fell behind early but put on a power display in the middle innings to rally for a 9-5 road victory over fourth-ranked Centennial.
“Our kids could have folded,” Hallead said. “We tried to measure ourselves as a program, and if there’s a program in the valley you want to measure yourself to, it’s Centennial.”
The ninth-ranked Panthers (10-6-1, 6-3 Northwest) scored three runs in the top of the first, but Centennial had six hits in the bottom of the frame to score four runs, and a pair of controversial calls helped the Bulldogs grab the momentum.
First, Tanner Wright singled through the right side with one out in the first, and courtesy runner Cole Silwoski tried to score from second. The throw beat him to the plate, but the umpire ruled Sliwoski was able to avoid the tag to cut the lead to 3-2.
Centennial (13-4-1, 10-2) added two more runs in the first, then ended the top of the second when Wesley Cosby was doubled off first on a throw from center fielder Gino Sabey. Palo Verde argued that the throw pulled first baseman Brett Berger off the bag, and the Panthers’ starting catcher Jacob Godman was ejected on the play.
“We had some adversity,” Hallead said. “We had some tough calls. I don’t know if I’ve argued in a game as much in my 18 years I’ve been coaching. We had to overcome some calls and we lost our starting catcher, and we had some guys step in.”
With backup catcher Chandler Kochan already in the lineup as the designated hitter, Hallead was unsure of who to insert behind the plate. He finally settled on Jaret Godman, Jacob’s twin brother, who hadn’t caught since little league.
“I didn’t know what to do, so I went and talked to Jaret and said, ‘Can you catch? Your brother can, you’re a twin,’ ” Hallead said. “And he said, ‘Yeah, I can do it.’ So he went back there, and I thought he did a heck of a job for his first time in 10 years.”
Palo Verde starter Tanner Lewis settled in after the first, and allowed an unearned run on two hits over the next 3⅓ innings to get the win. He struck out five and walked three. Jaret Godman pitched 2⅔ hitless innings with three strikeouts to close out the victory.
“Tanner Lewis was money today on the mound,” Hallead said. “He really battled through some adversity, as well. They hit him around pretty good in the first inning. He made some adjustments and had his change-up working really nice, and things like that.”
Palo Verde scored four runs in the third, highlighted by a three-run home run by Asher Bouldin. Kochan added a solo homer in the fifth for the Panthers.
Kochan finished 2-for-3 with three runs an and two RBIs, and Jaxon Hammond was 3-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs for Palo Verde.
“Our team has a lot of heart, and we’re trying to learn how to become one of the top-tier programs,” Hallead said.
Sabey was 2-for-4 with a, and Wright went 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI for Centennial.