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Merced Bears offense erupts in rout of Golden Valley Cougars

It was clear early Wednesday’s Merced-Golden Valley baseball game wasn’t going to be a low-scoring pitching duel.

The two teams combined for 11 runs in the first two innings, but the Bears’ bats never cooled en route to a 17-7 rout at Doug Fister Field.

“We haven’t done that very much,” said Merced coach Justin Parle, whose team improved to 14-6 overall, 7-2 Central California Conference. “I’m proud of our guys for battling back when we were down. We did a good job of putting the ball in play today.”

The Bears pounded out 17 hits and took advantage of four hit batters, five walks and five GV errors.

“That’s what we’ve been fighting all year,” said Cougars coach Scott Solis, whose team dropped to 1-16 and 1-8. “That’s what we need to fix.”

It was promising early for Golden Valley.

Ben Fletcher and Eddie Aguayo hit back-to-back doubles to highlight a three-run first inning for Golden Valley.

After the Bears answered with a five-run second, Golden Valley’s J.T. Edmunds launched a three-run home run over the left-field fence to give the Cougars a 6-5 lead.

“We had to want it more,” said Merced’s Alex Ortega, who went 3-for-4 with three RBIs. “We want to come out and score more runs than the other team every inning.”

All five Golden Valley pitchers struggled to get outs.

Merced quickly tied the game in the third inning as Armando Flores scored on a double play grounder.

The Bears then pushed across three runs in the fourth and three more in the sixth to open up a 12-6 lead.

The fourth inning started out odd when Merced’s Craig Bettis was hit by a pitch, but wasn’t awarded first base because the home plate umpire ruled he leaned into the pitch. Bettis – who was was hit three other times in the game – eventually tripled to start a three-run rally. Ortega and Evan Hanneman each singled in runs during the fourth.

Ortega added a two-run single in the fifth inning.

Bettis reached base all six times, including two hits. Bears leadoff hitter Isidro Mendoza had three hits and scored a pair of runs.

“We went up there and had some great at-bats,” Ortega said. “We had to grind it out today. I was proud to see everyone working hard at the plate. Nobody took an at-bat off.”

Merced starter Jordan Kemps settled in after the second inning and pitched six innings to get the win. After giving up the six runs in the first two innings he didn’t give up another hit until the sixth inning.

Merced will host Golden Valley on Friday night in the 11th annual Nannini Game. The first pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m.

“It’s so special, I can’t wait,” Ortega said. “Last year I was just a junior. Now that I’m a senior it seems the Nannini Game is 10 times more special. I can’t wait to play in that game.”