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Baseball: Pitching, defense key Maria Carrillo’s win over Sonoma Valley

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Maria Carrillo starting pitcher Alec Rennard had a simple game plan for Wednesday’s home game against hard-hitting

Maria Carrillo’s Will Hoge dives for the ball for the out during Wednesday’s game at Maria Carrillo. (CRISTA JEREMIASON/ PD)

Maria Carrillo’s Will Hoge dives for the ball for the out during Wednesday’s game at Maria Carrillo. (CRISTA JEREMIASON/ PD)

Sonoma Valley.

“If I threw strikes, I knew the defense would make the plays behind me,” the senior said.

Rennard made good on his end by throwing 57 strikes in seven innings and the defense did its part by playing error-free ball.

The result was a 3-1 victory over a Sonoma Valley squad that came into the game with a team batting average of .335.

Throwing only two pitches (fastball and curve), Rennard allowed four hits and struck out seven.

His offense came through in the fourth inning by scoring twice to take a 3-1 lead.

Keith Wallach got things started with a single to center.

He came around to score on Jake Scheiner’s double. Scheiner would score later in the inning on Peter Hoge’s sacrifice fly to right field.

Scheiner hit into a double play in the first inning but learned something in that at-bat.

“The Sonoma pitcher (Devon Graff) had a pattern,” the shortstop said.

“He’d alternate throwing a fastball and a curveball. I watched a couple of pitches in my second at-bat and when it came time for the curve, I was ready.

“I sat back and waited and then hit it hard.”

Those two runs were enough of a cushion for Rennard. He got stronger as the game progressed and retired the side in order in the last two innings.

The defensive play of the game came in the sixth when center fielder Clayton Andrews laid out to catch Jaxson Strong’s liner for the first out of the inning. Rennard then struck out Jonah Son and Dan Deely.

The Pumas’ record improved to 5-1, even though they’ve scored three runs or fewer in all but one game.

“Our pitching is ahead of our hitting,” coach Derek DeBenedetti said. “The bats will come alive, it’s just a matter of time.”

In Rennard and Billy Ambrose, Carrillo’s starting pitching is among the best in the Empire.

The Pumas finished second to Cardinal Newman in the NBL last year and figure to be in the hunt for the crown again this season.

“I like this group,” DeBenedetti said.

“There’s good chemistry and the players are very team-oriented.”

Carrillo opens league play Friday with a visit to Rancho Cotate.

Sonoma, now 6-2, is the defending SCL champ. Coach Don Lyons wasn’t happy with the way his team played Wednesday.

“For whatever reason, the players weren’t mentally as prepared as they should’ve been,” he said.

“It’s something we have to work on.”

Left fielder James Hess led the Sonoma offense going two-for-two.

Like Carrillo, the Dragons didn’t commit an error.

Next up for Sonoma is a trip to Alhambra on Saturday. The Dragons begin SCL play on March 26.