OTHELLO — Arcenio Martinez dug in against Bellingham reliever Joe Knutson in the bottom of the ninth with one out and Gage Pruneda representing the winning run at third base.
It might have been the season opener for both teams, but the chess match was in full swing as this non-league baseball game went to the bottom of the ninth inning Saturday afternoon.
Bellingham coach Darin Nolan pitched around T.J. Martinez, intentionally walking the Othello senior, to get to Arcenio Martinez hitting out of the fifth slot.
Arcenio widened his stance, looking to put the ball in play to the right side of the infield, which was crowding in ready to make the play at the plate. Martinez pulled a roller to the left side, but it was enough for the game-winning RBI, ushering in the Sonny Garza era with a 4-3 victory in his first game as head coach.
“I was just looking to hit it hard somewhere to score the run,” said Martinez, who had just the one hit. “It’s an amazing feeling. I’m glad I was able to respond under the pressure.”
The Red Raiders (0-1) defense pulled a double play to end the eighth and was looking get out of the inning more time. Pruneda drew the leadoff walk and Sakiel Garza moved him into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Then the Huskies’ right fielder moved to third on a wild pitch to set the stage.
“It was nice to get the win, especially against the bigger school,” said T.J. Martinez, who singled and had two stolen bases. “I’ve been patient, trying to work myself deeper into the count to get my pitch. I was kind of hoping for a chance (to hit the game-winner), but they decided to put me on. We’re a young team, but Arcenio came through.”
After seven seasons as the Othello assistant, Sonny Garza managed his first varsity game as the head coach. His young club came from two runs down to tie in the sixth. Trey Garza and Jay Rodriguez scored. Cameron Valdez and Rodriguez had singles in the inning.
“We ran the bases well today and tried to take advantage of what they were giving us,” Sonny Garza said. “(Starter) Abel Gomez, coming off the football injury, kept us in the game early. Sakiel (Garza), coming in for the last four or five innings pitched well and it was super huge for him. The weather wasn’t too good today, but our hitting will come. As long as we play defense we’ll be OK.”
Garza has a solid pitching staff. Gomez tore an ACL in football and missed the wrestling season. The Huskies are bringing him back slowly. They also have Sakiel, A.J. Pruneda and Jon Garza.
The infield is sound with Jay Rodriguez at first base and Jon Garza at second. The Huskies moved Cameron Valdez to shortstop and have the anchor, T.J. Martinez, at third.
E.J. Valdez returns to center field, Arcenio Martinez will go in left and Gage Pruneda is in right field.
“I like our infield. Moving Cameron over from second this year to shortstop this year is good,” Martinez said. “Our outfield is pretty solid. They didn’t drop any in the wind today. I think we can go far.”
The Huskies will play a Central Washington Athletic Conference doubleheader at Toppenish on Saturday.