FARMINGTON — Farmington High took a huge step toward its first district title in four years with a second win against Piedra Vista.
The Scorpions defeated Piedra Vista 5-4 on Tuesday afternoon at Ricketts Park to stay unbeaten in District 1-4A and move one game ahead of the three-time defending district and state champion Panthers in the standings.
The teams split two previous games with PV, beating the Scorps 5-4 to win Farmington's Invitational and the Scorpions responding to take the Panthers' Tri-States tournament title 7-2.
"We've talked about it all year. I foresee it happening five times," Farmington High head coach Sean Trotter said of the match-ups with PV. "We won the first one that really matters. The first two were good games and were championship games in tournaments and all that stuff. We just did enough to win today."
FHS (16-7, 3-0 District 1-4A) opened with three runs in the first inning — all with two outs — to take an early lead.
FHS starting pitcher Austin Davis reached on a single to start the Scorpions' rally after slapping an 0-2 pitch to the right side of the infield. PV second baseman Jeremy Johnson was able to knock down the grounder, but he couldn't throw out the speedy Davis.
Piedra Vista starting pitcher Ian Doughty then walked Beamer Wick and hit both Lance Lee and Brad Betz with pitches. Betz's hit-by-pitch resulted in a run that gave the Scorps a 1-0 lead.
The Scorps pushed the lead to 3-0 when Ethan Spellbring hit a flare to right field that dropped in front of PV's Tyler Archuleta, driving in Wick and Lee to give Farmington an early 3-0 advantage.
"I thought Ian could have done a better job in the first inning, but we had 0-2 on the three-hole hitter with two outs and nobody on base, and he gets a nubber off the end of the bat that squeaks through," said PV head coach Mike McGaha.
Spellbring went 2-for-3 from the plate with two RBIs in the win.
The Panthers answered to tie the game with three runs in the bottom of the third inning.
Nate Dominguez and Dillan Vigil hit a pair of singles, and then Matt Martin reached on a bunt attempt after a throwing error from Davis.
With the bases loaded, Jeremy Johnson drove in Dominguez with a single to cut the FHS lead to 3-1. Jacy Cave then drew a bases-loaded walk to drive in the Panthers' second run.
Zach Ahlgrim tied the game at three with a single that scored Martin.
The Panthers (13-9, 2-1) appeared on the verge of taking the lead with no outs and the bases still loaded, but Davis was able to wriggle out of the jam with a couple of ground balls.
Doughty grounded to the FHS third baseman, Betz, who threw home to get Johnson out on a force play at the plate, then Archuleta hit into a 5-2-3 double play to end the PV threat.
The Scorps regained the lead in the top of the fifth inning with two more runs.
Wick came around to score after a hit by Lance Lee was misjudged by Dominguez as it skipped by the PV left fielder.
"We had no fielding errors other than a misjudged ball in left," McGaha said.
Lee then scored after Betz ripped a double to the left field fence, giving FHS a 5-3 lead.
"I was just trying to get a base hit. That's all I was worried about," Betz said.
Betz had two RBIs in the game for the Scorps.
PV had one final chance to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh inning when Johnson reached on a Davis error as he misplayed a moderately hit comebacker to the mound.
Johnson moved to second base on a ground out and eventually to third on a wild pitch by Davis.
Davis then walked Doughty to put the tying on first before he was relieved by Frankie Gutierrez.
The Panthers eventually cut Farmington's lead to 5-4 after a controversial balk call on Gutierrez.
The Scorps reliever faked a pick-off throw to third base and looked toward first base, catching Doughty too far off the bag.
It appeared Farmington had picked Doughty off to record the final out and secure the win, but first-base umpire Dave Toledo called a balk on Gutierrez's pick-off move, giving Doughty second base and scoring Johnson.
"I really don't understand," Trotter said of the call. "It's a move you see every day. The explanation wasn't like the big league explanation that it' a balk or whatever. I'll talk to Dave (Toledo). He does a great job. He's as good as we have around here. It's just one of those where I don't know what he saw. I'd like to know, so we'll visit about it. Again, Dave Toledo is an excellent umpire. I know I got a little rowdy, but he does a great job."
Gutierrez settled down after the call and was able to get Archuleta to fly out to right field to lock up the win.
PV head coach Mike McGaha thought his team played a solid game, despite coming up a run short.
"It was a one-run game. It was anyone's ball game there to the very end. I feel like if we do a better job pitching in the first inning, then it's our game. Austin Davis did a fantastic job for them, but I never felt like he had our number. We left the bases loaded and runners at first and third once. I felt like we executed our plan."
Davis threw six and two-third innings for FHS allowing four runs on eight hits to get the win for the Scorps.
"Austin Davis threw well, and we played pretty good defense behind him," Trotter said. "Davis had good command on both sides of the plate. He isn't a hard thrower, but his velocity today was as good as it has been. His changeup wasn't very good but he mixed in the curveball for strikes. It was a tremendous outing for him."
Doughty was saddled with the loss for PV after giving up five runs on six hits. The Panther starter walked three hitters and struck out two in the defeat.
District play continues for both team on Saturday with PV playing at Aztec and Farmington hosting Kirtland Central.
Joshua Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jperrysuu.