Eagles take out Grants with 11-6 win

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Some extra work at the plate during practice paid off in a big way Tuesday for Belen designated hitter Nick Kurtz.

Glen Rosales-News-Bulletin photo: Belen’s Andrew Castillo nearly tossed a complete game against Grants, going 6 2/3 innings to pick up the victory.

Kurtz went 3-for-4 with three runs scored and a 2-run triple to help the Eagles win their first District 6-4A game, 11-6, over Grants.

“I’ve been doing a lot more practicing in the cages,” Kurtz said. “I think that helped out. I’m seeing the ball a lot better.”

The Belen coaching staff tried to iron out some mechanical issues, he said.

“I had to tweak a couple of things because at first I wasn’t being so successful,” Kurtz said. “My coaches worked with me, and so far it’s been working out for me. I’m waiting back on the ball and getting my hips to rotate.”

The win was a big one for Belen, 7-9, 1-2, coach Steve Contreras said.

“It was very important,” Contreras said. “We had our backs against the wall. On top of that, our two district losses were 6-5 and 3-2. We’ve been very competitive and we’ve had a chance to win but we just haven’t gotten it done. (Tuesday) we finally got it done. We needed a win in the biggest way.”

The Eagles corrected many of the faults that plagued them in the first two district losses, with pitcher Andrew Castillo making the Pirates earn their way on base.

“He pitched a good game,” Contreras said. “He threw a lot of strikes. Another one of our issues throughout the season — and was huge in our district losses — was walks.”

Castillo went 6 2/3 innings to get the victory and through six innings he allowed just two runs on six hits and one walk. He faltered with two outs in the seventh, allowing four consecutive hits, but Contreras appreciated the effort.

“We’re not giving up a whole lot of hits, except for the last inning, but we’re walking people in crucial situations,” he said. “Lead-off walks usually end up scoring and in a 1-run game, it becomes the difference. He threw a lot of strikes, which was good.”

Gabriel Lucero came over from third base to take the mound, getting the final batter to hit a sinking liner to left field with two on. C.J. Newey came up with a diving grab to end the game.

“A lot of our kids were dirty, they sold out and did everything they could to help the team get the victory and find some success,” Contreras said. “It was a great catch by CJ.”

Belen collected 15 hits during the game and did a better job picking up the big hits, he said.

“We’ve been hitting live and getting extra time in the cages,” Contreras said. “Even now, one of our issues is we’re leaving runners in scoring position. We did (Tuesday), early in the game. We left the bases loaded, left them there. Another inning, we had the bases loaded and only got one run out of it.”

But in the final three innings when it really mattered, Belen scored nine runs.

“We’re trying to put some pressure on them in practice,” Contreras said. “And it helped a little bit.”