Mountain View pitcher Colton Wheeler was a breath away from being pulled from the mound on Tuesday evening when the Mountain Lions squared off against the Amphitheater Panthers.
That was before he convinced coach Brian Moore that despite some early-inning mistakes, he had everything under control.
“I just told him I was good to stay in, and not to take me out,” said Wheeler.
Fortunately for the Mountain Lions, Moore listened.
By the third inning, Wheeler had found his rhythm, and his curve ball was wreaking havoc on the Panther batters.
Wheeler would finish the game with a career-high 11 strikeouts and a 1.00 ERA on 29 batters faced.
“In the end, Colton Wheeler had a hell of a game,” said Moore, who is in his first year coaching the Mountain Lions. “After he convinced me to leave him in, he didn’t let me down.”
Wheeler’s momentum on the mound would eventually rub off on the Mountain Lions’ offense in the top of the seventh inning – an offense Moore and Wheeler agreed needed a breath of life early on.
“We just came out dead,” said Wheeler. “There just wasn’t very much energy early on.”
Fortunately for the Mountain Lions, as soon as their bats heated up, the errors began for the Panthers.
Leading 3-1 at the top of the seventh, Mountain View’s Casey Camamo connected to left, where the ball was collected but overthrown to second base, giving Buddy Balsino the first of three consecutive runs to come in the inning.
With one runner on, Graham Spraker then hit a slow groundball down the first-base line where it was easily collected, but subsequently bobbled by the Amphi defense, giving Spraker the single and advancing Camamo to third base.
On the next pitch, the pitch got loose behind the plate, advancing Camamo home and Spraker to second.
“We stepped up and let the other team make errors, and we took advantage of that,” said Moore. “We really pulled down from inside.”
Brandon Hyatt would seal the scoring when he slugged one deep to left field, earning an RBI on Spraker’s run home and giving the Mountain Lions a 6-1 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh, where, before collecting three outs, the Panthers would only manage one run off an RBI from Oscar Castro.
The Mountain Lions finished the game with 8 hits from seven different batters, including a double by Sam Garcia, who, with four plate appearances, managed a .667 batting average.
Spraker collected three of Mountain View’s six runs.
The win moved the Mountain Lions to 5-2 overall, and taught the team a valuable lesson for their coming matches.
“We need to come out like we did in the seventh inning, fired up, and play a whole game instead of three innings,” said Wheeler.
The Panthers loss moves Amphitheater to 0-5-1 on the season.