Rider Martinez toed the rubber inside the cavernous enclave of Phoenix’s Chase Field, shaking off nerves and glee.
The Ironwood Ridge High School senior southpaw, making just his second start of the season, was tasked with shutting down a dynamic Mountain View High School offense.
The 5-foot-10-inch pitcher did just that, dialing in early by throwing a duke’s mix of fastballs and breaking pitches—keeping the Lions’ lineup perplexed through the crisp Phoenix evening.
Martinez, who threw six innings of three-run ball for the Nighthawks in their 5-3 win, was equal parts nervous and anxious when he first took the mound on Tuesday.
“It was crazy; it didn't really hit me until I literally got here on the field that that was going to happen,” Martinez said. “I couldn't explain it. And that was only my second start this season in my life, actually. And to do it here is just a blessing.”
Martinez was helped offensively by an aggressive Nighthawks lineup that struck for five unanswered runs in the game’s first three innings.
The game’s biggest salvo was delivered by junior Dylan Inclan, who smacked a two-run double into the left-center field gap in the game’s second inning.
Teammate Kamden Kautz, who scored a run and pitched a scoreless seventh inning for the Nighthawks, praised his teammates for their ability to perform well under the bright lights of Chase Field.
“We played better than we have been,” Kautz said. “We put together some good at-bats and we kept them from putting runs on the board, which has been a big problem for this year. So, it felt good to put a win in the column.”
Kautz, who pitched a clean seventh inning to earn the save, hopes the victory can help the Nighthawks get back on-track, improving their record to 8-10 this season.
“It was big, because we’ve been struggling during the regular season,” Kautz said. “We played fine in tournaments, so we brought it together and played well tonight. So, it was a big, big change for us.”
Six Nighthawks had at least one hit in the game, with junior outfielder David DeGrood putting up a team-high three on Tuesday.
Martinez believes the team’s performance can be a turning point for the Nighthawks, given the way they played in all facets of the game.
“We've been in a slump, lately, and then I think this game has turned our whole season around,” Martinez said. “We know we can beat anybody on a given day. We have all the talent in the world. We just need to put the pieces together, and I think we can go far if we just put everything together.”
Kautz believes he and his teammates have the talent and camaraderie to improve their play heading into sectional play.
“We're going to be a fun team to watch,” Kautz said. “And if we get it going, there's not many teams that can beat us because we'll throw up 10, 15 runs and be able to shut down some teams.”
Mountain View High school finished the game with three hits, picked up by Alan Alvarez, Roberto Morales and catcher Jake Smith.
Pitcher Trevor Smith, who gave up five runs on seven hits in five innings pitched, picked up an RBI on a sacrifice fly to center in the game’s fifth inning, pulling the Lions within two of Ironwood Ridge.
Second baseman Justen Sanchez scored two of the team’s runs, reaching base via a walk and a single.
Reliever Matt Brown finished off the game for Coach Kyle Ivanoff, tossing two innings of scoreless relief, giving up three hits, while striking out one Nighthawk.
The Lions return to face Buena in Sierra Vista at 4 p.m. on Thursday, while the Nighthawks host Sahuaro at 4 p.m. Thursday, before finishing the week with a road game against Paradise Valley High School at 4 p.m. on Friday.
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