PRESCOTT VALLEY — Over his last three starts, Bradshaw Mountain ace pitcher Paxton Prentice has picked up steam, and the Bears will need him if they plan to forge a late-season run in the Grand Canyon region.
On Tuesday, March 26, at Bradshaw Mountain’s campus field, Prentice hurled a complete game, allowing two runs on four hits and striking out 11, leading the Bears to a 6-2 victory over county rival Mingus.
“I just really focus on my release points and staying back on pitches,” Prentice said. “I really like breaking down on that curveball and hitting my spots.”
Last season, Mingus eliminated Bradshaw Mountain in the play-in round of the state tournament with Prentice on the mound.
“I knew what we were getting ourselves into – he’s had a year to mature,” Marauders coach Eric Quesada said of Prentice. “He’s a phenomenal pitcher. He had all of his pitches working. He got us off-balance early, challenging us with the fastball, and in the later innings he’s giving us first-strike curveballs.”
Bradshaw Mountain coach Brian Bundrick said Prentice has been throwing rather well.
“He started off kind of hot and cold, hot and cold,” Bundrick added. “And then the last three outings, he’s been lights out. If he can continue doing what he’s doing, and stay focused in his little circle, we’re going to be fine.”
Bears catcher Dylan Taylor said Prentice has impressed him the whole season.
“He’s just hitting his spots all the time now,” he added. “His breaking ball is insane.”
Both the Bears and the Marauders have struggled through the first half of the season without veteran lineups. They are bringing up the rear in the region, as they each own 1-4 records.
Bradshaw Mountain, ranked 33rd in the initial AIA power-point ratings released Tuesday, is 4-5 in power-point games. Mingus, which was No. 32, has a 2-9 record.
Silly mental mistakes have plagued both squads, whether it’s fielding errors or base-running miscues. Mingus committed four infield errors on Tuesday, including one apiece in the second, third, fifth and sixth innings. The error in the second inning came with two outs, extending the frame and allowing the Bears to score three of their six runs.
At the plate, Chase Torp’s RBI double and Jordan Massis’ two-run single in the second ultimately lifted the hosts. Taylor was 1 for 3 with a double.
Bradshaw Mountain, which trailed 1-0 through the first inning, later broke open the contest with a three-run sixth to grab a 6-1 lead. Jacob Roberts’ two-run single with the bases loaded, followed by an RBI sacrifice bunt from Josh Grant sealed it.
Mingus plated a run in the seventh on a wild pitch, but Prentice surrendered only one hit from the second through the sixth innings. The Marauders’ Chaz Taylor, who relieved starter Justin Tanner with one out in the sixth, went 1 for 3 with an RBI single in the first.
“It’s a little bit mental – we are scared of failing a little bit, so sometimes we play scared,” Taylor said of Mingus’ struggles. “Our problem is that we just need to go out and play and have fun, and just be more aggressive and have confidence in ourselves and our team.”
Tanner, who pitched admirably in 5-1/3 innings, went 2 for 3 with a double. The only other hit for the visitors came in the seventh – a leadoff single from Trevor Hoke.
“It’s been a grind; it’s been difficult,” Quesada said of the season thus far. “But it’s been kind of our M.O. [modus operandi] all year – we set ourselves up fine, and then we just can’t close out innings. … There’s brighter days ahead, but it’s been rough.”
Doug Cook is a sports reporter for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter at @dougout_dc. Email him at email@example.com or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2039.