Staff photo by Eric Lusk
Camp Verde players watch from the dugout as the Cowboys put the finishing touches on Tuesday's win over Wickenburg.
The Cowboys, who finished 0-4-1 in a season's opening tournament at Mohave, have since won five of their last eight. Coach Mike Mier's club went 4-3 in another tournament at Santa Cruz last weekend and won its all-important West Region opener Tuesday against Wickenburg.
Brandon Ream hit an important two-run double in the sixth inning as the Cowboys squeezed by the visiting Wranglers 5-2.
"Basketball ran long, and I just felt like we were a little bit behind to start the season," Mier said. "The kids have done a nice job catching up in a lot of areas. We're better than when we began, and we still have a lot of room for improvement. We're looking forward to challenging people."
Mier identified Wickenburg as a team his squad needed to beat to even think about state playoff berths. The Cowboys passed their first test thanks to clutch efforts from both sides of the plate.
Ream earned a complete-game victory on the mound, giving up only three hits with his finesse style. His double in the sixth broke a 2-2 tie. Andres Chagolla then advanced Ream's courtesy runner to third base after an error on the Wickenburg shortstop, and the runner scored when Seth McCabe beat out an infield single.
"Our freshman (McCabe) put the ball in play to give us another insurance run," Mier said. "He's been contributing all along for us, but that was a big at-bat."
Matt Strickland went 2-for-3 and scored two runs against Wickenburg pitcher Will Sadowski, who had struck out 19 in a recent 1-0 win over Bagdad. Camp Verde hitters only struck out four times the entire afternoon.
The Cowboys picked up a heavy dose of confidence heading into this game thanks to results from Santa Cruz.
Camp Verde's victims included Alchesay twice (11-0 and 7-0), Queen Creek (5-4) and Blue Ridge (3-2). The Cowboys lost to Bisbee 7-4 and Seton Catholic 11-0, and then fell to Bisbee again in the third-place game by a 4-3 count.
The Cowboys had the tying run on third base in the final inning of the third-place bout but couldn't get him across.
"We got to see quality teams throughout the tournament," Mier said. "I really feel like when we came out of there our season took a turn for the better. We shored up our defense, and offensively we made some tremendous strides."
Here are highlights from the two-day baseball fest:
CAMP VERDE 11, ALCHESAY 0: Ream pitched a two-hit shutout with nine strikeouts and blasted a 400-foot home run. Ream, McCabe and Chase Armstrong each went 2-for-3 with a couple RBIs against one of the weakest teams in the field.
CAMP VERDE 5, QUEEN CREEK 4: The Cowboys scored all five runs in the first inning, and Armstrong struck out the side in the final frame to preserve the victory. Armstrong struck out six batters in all.
CVHS squeezed the most out of its four hits. Chagolla had two RBIs. "We played good enough defense to hold them in check," Mier said.
SETON 11, CAMP VERDE 0: The Cowboys only managed one hit against the Sentinels' number one pitcher. "He handcuffed us all day," Mier said.
BISBEE 7, CAMP VERDE 4: Playing on a JV field with a short outfield fence – only about 250 feet from the plate – enticed hitters from both teams. Bisbee had three home runs, and Chagolla hit one out for Camp Verde.
Ryan Anderson went 2-for-3 and pitched a solid fifth inning in relief. "We did battle back," Mier said. "We got the tying run to the plate (in the final inning). We gave ourselves a chance to win."
CAMP VERDE 3, BLUE RIDGE 2: The Yellow Jackets went ahead 2-1 in the top of the fifth, but the Cowboys responded with two scores to win it in the bottom of the frame.
Anderson went 3-for-3 from the plate, and his triple in the fifth scored the tying run. Ream hit a sacrifice fly to score Anderson for the victory.
Armstrong went 2-for-3 with a double and run scored. He also earned the pitching victory in relief of Chagolla and David McDonald. Camp Verde pitchers only surrendered two hits for the game.
"You win a ball game like this, and the kids gain confidence," Mier said. "We were really pleased with that effort. It put us back in the win column against a quality 3A team."
CAMP VERDE 7, ALCHESAY 0: The Falcons forfeited their second meeting with the Cowboys.
BISBEE 4, CAMP VERDE 3: The Cowboys scored once in the third and twice in the fifth in this battle for the tournament's third-place prize. Ream pitched a complete game and only gave up four hits.
Bisbee finished as the 2A runners-up a year ago.
WICKENBURG 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 — 2 3 3
CAMP VERDE 1 0 0 1 0 3 x — 5 5 2
WP: Brandon Ream
LP: Will Sadowski
Highlights: Ream hit a two-run double in the sixth to put Camp Verde ahead. The Cowboys start the West Region season 1-0.