Published: March 28, 2014
Perhaps a little dejected after having his potential game-ending, three-run homer called foul, Joe Tino quickly found vindication with his next swing.
This one left no doubt.
Tino's second home run of the game served as the crowning blow in an 11-0 Sand Creek victory Friday against Kiowa as the Creek Classic-host Scorpions (2-3) advanced to Saturday's title game against Mesa Ridge.
Moments earlier, the Scorpions junior shortstop sent a Steven Mizak offering deep down the left-field line, only to hook foul at the last second, much to the dismay of Sand Creek coach Brett Humphrey and the home crowd.
"I just went back up there and had to refocus," Tino said. "I just had to try to hit the next one. I guessed right on a fastball."
Tino earlier hit a solo home run off starter Maclain Smiley in the third inning.
While Tino found his power stroke with his team's first home runs of the season, Sand Creek starter Fernando Hernandez rebounded from a 10-walk implosion March 15 against Mesa Ridge, tossing a complete-game, five-hit shutout and striking out five.
Hernandez (1-0) retired Marshal Deering on a fly out to center to end a bases-loaded threat in the second inning and had flawless defense behind him, as the Scorpions played error-free baseball.
Tino provided the game's defensive highlight, starting a 6-4-3 double play by ranging far to his right to snag a bouncer off the bat of Caleb Smith.
"The defense gave me a lot of confidence," Hernandez said. "My last start didn't go so strong, and I came back with a different mentality, to go after the hitters and have my defense make plays behind me."
While Sand Creek made its plays on defense, Kiowa (1-1) mistakes led to three early runs.
With Hernandez on first with a leadoff single to start the first, Indians catcher Mitchell Bates threw wildly to first on the ensuing sacrifice bunt attempt by Ryan Ebbens. By the time the ball was retrieved in the right-field corner, both runners had come all the way around to score.
The next inning, Bates tried to cut down Tyler Meyers, who had a big lead off third base, but Bates' throw short-hopped Logan Link.
After that, the Indians, who lost two of three games at the same tournament to start last season and then didn't lose again until the quarterfinals of the 2A state tournament, settled down. Kiowa played without an error for the last four innings, including Bates picking off Morgan at second base and later catching Tino trying to steal second.
"Playing better teams makes us better, because those mistakes are magnified," Smith said. "We're encouraged with the way we played at the end. Sand Creek is a good team, and we won't see a team that good for a while. If we showed we could make plays against a team like that, we can take that back to our 2A competition."