The No. 1-ranked Panthers defeated No. 7 Aztec 16-0 in five innings in Aztec. The win gave Piedra Vista (15-9, 3-1 District 1-4A) a season sweep of the Tigers (14-6, 1-3). The Panthers totaled 30 runs in the two games and didn't surrender a single run in the series.
"That might be the best overall game we have played," said Piedra Vista head coach Mike McGaha after Saturday's win. "Offensively, defensively, pitching-wise — everything."
The game started with two good pitchers dueling.
It was Piedra Vista's Nate Dominguez that was able to sustain a high level of play while Aztec's Tanner Moore faded as the defense behind him committed costly errors and his flu-ridden stomach turned on the mound.
It took Moore just eight pitches to retire the PV side in each of the first two innings.
PV recorded its first hit of the game in the top of the third when Kody Russell led off with a single. Dominguez then laid down a bunt and reached on a throwing error by Moore. That allowed the runners to advance an extra base, and Tyler Archuleta took advantage by ripping a single to score Russell. Matt Martin followed with another RBI-single.
Jacy Cave drove in Archuleta on a fielder's choice and Cave reached on an Aztec throwing errors.
The third-inning damage was complete after Ian Doughty ripped a two-run single to the outfield, giving PV a 5-0 lead.
Moore was relieved in the fourth inning after facing three batters. He walked Dominguez to start the inning and then threw out Archuleta at first on a sacrifice bunt. Martin then reached on an error on a dropped fly ball in centerfield, and that was the day for Moore.
In three and one-third innings of work, Moore faced 19 hitters and allowed just four hits.
He struck out two Panthers and walked one while hitting another with a pitch. He was charged with four runs.
"Defensively, we didn't play well behind him. We struggled the last few weeks to play well. We have ruined a lot of good pitching by playing bad defense," said Aztec assistant coach Brett Alexander. "Moore was struggling with a stomach flu the last three days. I told him to just give me three strong innings. He wanted it. It was his last home game against PV in his senior year. He told me he wanted to go. He threw the ball well, but we had to play defense better. He was hurting pretty bad out there when I visited in the fourth inning. I went ahead and made the change."
Dylan Stinson relieved Moore, and it didn't take the Panthers long to welcome him to the game.
Jeremy Johnson, the first batter Stinson faced, reached on another Aztec error. Then Jacy Cave lifted a two-run home run to deep left centerfield, clearing the street behind the Aztec fence.
"That was a bullet," McGaha said of Cave's home run. "His numbers aren't as good, but Jacy has probably had the best pitch selection over the last four games than he has had his entire life."
PV took an 8-0 lead through four inning before scoring eight more in the fifth. Eight of the nine PV players in the lineup scored in the fifth, which was highlighted by RBI singles by Johnson and Russell and a two-run single from Dominguez.
The seven through nine hitters in PV's lineup consisting of Russell, Dominguez and Archuleta combined to score seven runs while driving in four. They were 4-for-7 at the plate with two walks and two sacrifices.
"We don't look for any one person to bring in runs. Everybody can do it on our team," Dominguez said.
Dominguez threw only 52 pitches in four innings before giving way to Gunner Archuleta for the final three outs of the game.
Dominguez allowed just three Tiger hits while walking two and striking out just one.
"I won't blow it by you. I just let my defense work," Dominguez said. "Our pitching didn't start off great, but we are definitely coming around now right at the peak of the season."
Dominguez has battled hamstirng problems for the better part of a year. McGaha called his effort Saturday the best he has seen all season.
"His best outing yet. His velocity was down early in the year but it has come back up. He is changing speeds very well and his changeup was noticeably better," McGaha said. "He always drops that little curveball in there that makes it tough on a guy because it changes planes about a foot and a half. It is effective. I am very proud of him."
McGaha will have all hands on deck for next Saturday's District 1-4A showdown with Farmington High
The Panthers face Kirtland Central on Tuesday and, with a win against the Broncos, will play Farmington High for the district title in the final game of the regular season.
"We pitched the way we pitched all week to set us up to go get one game against FHS," he said. "Obviously that isn't the end of the season for us, but we set it up to, if I want to, let all four guys go Saturday against Farmington High."
PV is kicking it into high gear at the right time. The Panthers ran the bases on Saturday the best they have all season and executed small-ball as well as they have with this group of players.
"That has always been my style. I have probably tried to play it safe here a couple of times recently, and it has snakebit us. It is just a fast, uptempo, ride the lightning type thing," McGaha said. "There are things we need to go back to and start trying to do. Who wants it? This is a sprint right here. All the rules are out the window. Let's go."
Aztec hopes to play spoiler to Farmington's 4-0 start in District 1-4A in a matchup Tuesday at Ricketts Park.
"We have played FHS twice this year and lost 6-4 and 8-3. Our kids are pretty confident," Alexander said. "They will be ready to go. Farmington has a lot riding on the game with PV beating us today.
They have to continue to win to keep the upper-hand in district. I am confident we can come back out and play well."
Alexander is unsure if University of New Mexico commit Tyson Curley will be able to start the game on the mound Tuesday.
"He has been battling some shoulder problems. I have had him in the chiropractor the last few weeks," Alexander said. "Hopefully we can get him one more start, but we may have to push him back."
John Livingston can be reached at email@example.com; 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.