Eagles drop pitcher’s duel in area opener

Max Sauceda pitches in Pleasanton’s 2-0 loss to Alice in the first game of their area series. J GARCIA | PLEASANTON EXPRESS

The Pleasanton Eagles will have their backs against the wall on Friday.

Pleasanton (25-8) lost 2-0 to Alice (17-15) at home on Thursday to begin the area round series. It was Pleasanton’s first home loss since they lost to Geronimo Navarro on March 23. They look to stave off elimination on Friday after Alice took a 1-0 series lead.

“I told them, with every pitch, just try to learn,” Head Coach Lance Standley said. “We’ve got one freshman and six sophomores playing a team that’s real good. That’s a good baseball team. They’re seasoned, they’re strong. … I just told them to learn in every at-bat and have a chance at the end. That’s what they did.”

The Eagles were able to bring the tying run to the plate with two outs in the seventh, but Diego Luna’s fly out brought a halt to any thoughts of a late rally.

Alice finally got to Eagles starting pitcher Max Sauceda in the fourth inning. The Coyotes plated two runs on RBI singles from Matthew Molina and Ryan Galvan. That came during a run of three straight hits for the Coyotes and both runs came across with two outs.

Pleasanton’s sophomore ace admitted he felt rattled after those runs came across. He had pitched three innings of shutout baseball with only one hit against him in the first three frames. He also knew he had to trust his defense to help him out of the jam.

“Yeah, it [rattled me],” Sauceda said. “It toughened me up a little bit. Now I know what to expect.”

Sauceda would take the loss, allowing two runs on five hits with five strikeouts in seven innings of work. Though he will not be available to pitch again in the series after throwing 103 pitches, Sauceda’s complete game effort allowed the Eagles’ bullpen to stay fresh.

They may need everyone in Friday’s elimination game.

Ty Hehman swings at a pitch in Pleasanton’s 2-0 loss to Alice in game 1 of their area playoff on Thursday. J GARCIA | PLEASANTON EXPRESS

“We’ll know how big it is if we beat their ace [Isai Campos] tomorrow,” Standley said. “It’s not gonna show until we beat that guy. It’s gonna be unfortunate because I’m probably not going to play Max at third base tomorrow — he’s our starting third baseman when he’s not pitching — because I don’t wanna do anything to hurt his arm after he pitched that type of game. I’m going to let him DH and put someone else at third and watch them step up and pick Max up for leaving his heart on the mound today.”

The Eagles struggled at the plate late in the game.

After picking up three hits in the first two innings, Pleasanton’s bats went cold and they were held hitless from then until the seventh inning, when JD Guerra picked up a two-out single.

“I think there’s progress we need to make at the plate,” senior shortstop Cole Wiechring said. “You could see we were a little young today at the plate and we made some decisions that weren’t very mature. We’ve gotta go back and get it tomorrow.”

Wiechring was one of four Eagles to notch a hit in addition to Guerra, Tanner Hollis and Ty Hehman.

Game 2 is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in Alice on Friday.

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