Matt Santos and Kyle Johnson couldn’t have asked for a better way to start their senior season Thursday for the Douglas High baseball team.
Johnson pitched five-hit ball and Santos hit a bases-clearing double in the first inning to put Douglas on track to a 10-0 victory against Truckee during Mike Bearman Memorial Preseason Tournament action at Tiger Field.
Oh, and by the way, freshman Haden Keller came up big in his first career at-bat for the Tigers when he delivered a two-out, full-count walkoff single in the fifth inning to cap a contest called due to the 10-run mercy rule.
“We’re 1-0 looking forward to the rest (of the season),” Johnson said, flashing a well-deserved smile after turning in a performance in which he struck out nine and walked none.
Santos, who missed the entire 2013 season with a shoulder injury, doubled into the left-center field gap to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead and added an RBI single in the second to extend the lead to 7-0.
“I felt pretty good going into today. It’s been kind of tough coming back, but I settled down and got my swing back a little bit yesterday,” the first baseman said. “I stepped up with the bases loaded, my heart was pounding a little bit; I just tried to take deep breaths and I hit the ball pretty hard.”
Cale Kynett singled up the middle to lead off the Tigers’ first inning, Dustin Plante reached on a fielder’s choice, Kaleb Foster followed with a pop fly single to right field and Lopez singled to load the bases.
Santos was 2-for-4 with 4 RBI and made good contact in his other two at-bats — a line drive out to left field in the third inning and liner to third base in the fifth.
“The shoulder feels great, to be honest,” he said. “I went to the doctor yesterday and it’s good to go. I’m looking forward to staying strong and having a good season.”
Later, Keller was one of two young players who contributed to the team’s fifth inning rally. With one runner aboard and two outs, sophomore Logan Fencl made his varsity debut as a pinch hitter and bounced a single through the hole on the left side of the infield. Then the left-hand swinging Keller singled past first base to end the game.
“We’re excited to get him in a spot like that,” Douglas coach Bruce Jacobsen said of Keller. “He gets the count to 3-2 and gets a game-winning single, that’s why he’s here. He’s a great kid. We’re looking forward to having him for the next four years.”
The Tigers added four more runs in the second inning, aided by four Truckee errors, to make it 9-0. That was more than ample support for Johnson.
“Everything was coming out of my hand well today,” Johnson said. “I’m confident in myself this year. I’m just trying to throw all my pitches for strikes.”
The right-hander was tough in the clutch. Truckee’s Mike Jones singled to lead off the game and advanced to second on Thor Retzlaff’s sacrifice bunt, however, Johnson retired the side with back-to-back strikeouts.
The Wolverines threatened again when Riley Guiragossian and Teagan Pado singled to open the fourth. Both runners advanced on Ty Vaio’s sacrifice bunt, but once again, Johnson retired the side with two strikeouts.
In addition to the two hits from Santos, Foster went 2-for-3, Kynett 2-for-4 and Lopez 2-for-4 to lead the Tigers’ 13-hit attack. Dalton Grissell also had an RBI double into the right-center field gap that pushed the lead to 5-0 and Johnson helped his own cause with a sacrifice fly in the second inning.
Even though Truckee fielded a young lineup, the Wolverines reigned as Division I-A state champion in 2012 and returned to the state tournament last year.
“They’re a decent 3A team. They’re no slouch by any means. So to come out and play well is just solid. We’re going to have a tough weekend. We’ve got four more ball games in two days, so it’s not easy, that’s for sure.”