A trio of Casa Grande pitchers, working from the comfort zone of a big early lead, shut down Ukiah’s Wildcats on Thursday evening, hurling the Gauchos to an 8-2 win.
Although the game was only the second of the season for Casa Grande, it was a North Bay League game, and gave the Gauchos a good start in defense of the championship they won last season.
The game was over quickly, effectively ending when Casa Grande scored six runs in the second inning to take an 8-0 lead.
Any hopes the Gauchos had of shortening the game via the 10-run rule were halted by Ukiah relief pitcher Carter Duncan, who finally ended the Casa second-inning assault, and went on to pitch 3⅔ innings of hitless ball.
Not that the Gauchos needed anything more.
Starting pitcher Broc Burleson pitched five strong innings, allowing just three hits, while walking two and striking out two. His only problem came in the second inning when the last two batters in the Ukiah order, Jordan Smith and Grant Miller, reached base to start the frame. Both scored, Smith on Daniel Smith’s double and Miller on Duncan Kindopp’s ground out.
Casa’s middle infielders, Joe Lampe at shortstop and Ibai Guadron at second base, aided their pitcher with two double plays, with each beginning one of the twin kills.
Casa Grande gratefuly accepted two walks and a Ukiah error in the opening inning, scoring two runs on a clutch single by Cameron Downing. That proved a prelude to the game-changing second-inning Casa rally, an explosion that featured four hits and two walks, with Downing again coming up big with a two-run, bases-loaded double. The junior catcher had three hits and drove home four runs in the game.
Other hits in the rally came from Guadron, Lampe and Dylan Moore.
Casa Grande tacked on a couple of insurance tallies in the sixth, scoring on sacrifice flies from Moore and Cole Santander.
Chris Sanchez and Zack Orella each pitched a scoreless inning in relief for Casa.
The game ended on a exceptional running catch of a looping foul pop-up by Casa third baseman Santander.
The win was the second without a loss for the Gauchos.