Blue Devils' bats spring to life

slynch@mercedsun-star.comMarch 19, 2013 

Maybe the Spring Equinox deserves some of the credit.

Like bears waking from a winter hibernation, the dormant Merced College bats came to life at a pivotal time on Tuesday afternoon.

The big inning had eluded the Blue Devils through their first 18 games, with the team only putting up a handful of crooked numbers on the season.

Garrett Boothe helped bring that run to an end with a two-run double and MC struck for six runs in the seventh inning, cruising to an 11-0 victory over West Hills.

The 11-run outburst was the Blue Devils' biggest of the season and it was sparked by a quintessential MC play.

With the Blue Devils (6-4 Central Valley Conference, 10-9) staked to a 3-0 lead and two on with no outs in the seventh, Boothe faked a bunt to get the defense in motion.

With the third baseman charging hard on the wheel play, Boothe pulled the bat back and slapped a ball down the left field line that plated two.

It was the start of MC's second biggest inning of the season as it pushed across six runs on four hits, two walks and a hit batsman.

"I wasn't having a very good day at the plate, so that inning felt great," Boothe said. "I had two strikeouts and a jam job before it.

"Coach told me in the on deck circle that I was sac bunting, but after the first pitch he told me I had options.

"That meant I could pull back and swing if I wanted to. He threw me something I could handle and it worked out."

The breakout had been a long time coming as MC held a 3-0 lead but only produced two hits through the first six innings.

The Blue Devils made the most of those hits , however, with Matt Farias blasting a two-run home run in the first inning.

Merced managed to expand its lead thanks to a couple walks and a Shot Nagatomi sacrifice fly.

While it took a while to get the bats going, MC was constantly applying pressure to the Falcons' defense thanks to a single-game record nine hit batsmen and seven walks.

"We know by now we're going to be in close ball games, so it's important we find ways to grind out runs when the bats are struggling," MC coach Nate Devine said. "I liked our approaches at the plate today. They kept us off balance for a little bit with some good, slow-breaking curves, but we stuck with it and put a game away."

The three runs were all starting pitcher Ryan McDaniel would need.

He tossed an efficient 80 pitches in seven shutout innings. McDaniel limited West Hills (7-3 CVC, 10-9) to three hits and struck out three.

DJ Jantz pitched a pair of scoreless innings to close out the game.

"This was a great way to start the series, but Thursday at their place is now a huge game," McDaniel said. "This one got away from them and they're going to be ready to play, so we've got to come equally ready.

"I think we saw signs the offense was getting ready to break out last week. Now we just have to keep building on it."

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