By PETER FOURNIER
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Piner High baseball coach Nick Green said he isn’t very good when it comes to interviews, but he sure couldn’t stop smiling Tuesday afternoon.
Green’s Prospectors cruised in their Sonoma County League opener and reached double-digit wins for the first time since 2008 with a 5-1 victory against Elsie Allen on Tuesday afternoon.
“I’m pretty sure it’s our best start in seven years, if I had to guess roughly from what people have said, but I’m not sure,” Green said.
Though no official record exists, MaxPreps has Piner’s last winning season listed in 2006-07 at 14-11.
Prospectors starter Dominic Grillo stumped Lobos batters with a three-hit, nine-strikeout complete game. Grillo allowed a pair of two-out doubles, one to Elsie’s Ernie Cortez in the first inning and another to Caleb Romero in the third inning, but worked out of both jams. Cortez and Romero were two of five Lobos who reached base against Grillo.
Grillo credited his defense, which recorded seven ground-ball outs, on carrying him the distance.
“That’s what we’ve been working on: fielding ground balls and making throws,” he said.
Grillo helped his own cause by putting the Prospectors (10-2, 1-0 SCL) on the board first in the third inning with a double to deep left field, which scored Niko Formosa to put Piner up 1-0.
The Prospectors tacked on another run in the fourth, two more in the sixth and one more in the seventh, despite leaving 11 runners on base, including the bases loaded twice.
“Our bats were a little cold today,” Green said.
Win No. 10 also had Grillo smiling broadly.
“It’s great for the program,” he said. “We’ve been struggling the past couple of years, but I think we’re turning that around with (Green) this year.”
Elsie (5-4-1, 0-1 SCL) got on the board in the sixth inning. Romero reached based with a one-out walk and would later score on a wild pitch by Grillo, but the 4-1 deficit at the time would be too much for the Lobos to overcome.
It was Elsie’s first game in more than a week due to a scheduling snafu that left the team resting for most of spring break last week, coach Jason Greiner said.
“We had just practice all week and everybody else got to play games and tournaments during spring break so that definitely killed us,” he said. “We played on Friday before spring break and then we were off for 11 days, so yeah, that definitely hurt.”
As for the chances the Lobos had to get on the board early on and late, “We’re a manufactured team,” he said. “We had guys on base, but guys on with two outs and stuff, that’s not us.
“We got to get the leadoff guy on. We got to bunt. We got to do some stuff. We got work to do.”