Jaguars outlast Eagles in early district game

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The Valencia baseball team picked up a key early district victory 3-2 over rival Belen on Friday night.

News-Bulletin file photo: Belen’s Eutimio Vialpando, pitcher and first baseman, lasted six innings against Valencia on Friday, giving up three runs, one earned, on just two hits and four walks.

Garret Garcia was the hitting and pitching star for the Jaguars (5-9, 1-1 District 6-4A). He went the distance, allowing just two runs and seven hits.

Garcia did not walk a batter and finished with nine strikeouts, throwing a total of 62 strikes in his 85 pitches of the night.

The Eagles (6-9, 0-2) jumped on Garcia in the first inning as Nick Aragon doubled with one out and then scored on Eutimio Vialpando’s RBI double.

John Briscoe followed with a single to put runners at the corners. Chris Peralta made it count with an RBI single that put Belen ahead 2-0.

After that, however, Garcia settled down and neutralized the Eagles’ bats.

“We scored two runs in the top of the first,” Belen coach Steve Contreras said. “We hit back-to-back doubles. After that their pitcher, he pitched extremely well. He hit every location they asked him to hit. We were chasing some balls out of the zone.”

Valencia got a run back in the third to cut the lead in half.

Garcia then got a chance to help his own cause in the fourth inning.

The Jaguars loaded the bases on a single by Anthony Gonzales and two walks. Garcia made the most of his chance with a looping double into shallow right field that drove in two runs to put his team ahead.

Vialpando took the loss for Belen despite a strong performance. He lasted six innings, giving up three runs, one earned, on just two hits and four walks. Vialpando struck out eight.

“Our pitcher, he only gave up two hits, (so) it really came down to one bad inning that we had,” Contreras said. “I kind of hate to make excuses, but the umpire missed a guy (Gonzales) out at first base.

“He stepped off and we tagged him out. Then he stole second and overslid the bag and we tagged him, but they called him safe. That guy ended up scoring. It was really a crucial call. It was a hard-fought game by both teams.”

Aragon and Peralta each finished with two hits for the Eagles.

Garcia and Anthony Gonzales had the only two hits for the Jaguars, who did not overlook their rival with a tough doubleheader against perennial state power Farmington looming on Saturday.

“It’s tough. Unfortunately, we don’t want to get any non-district games in the middle of district season,” Valencia coach Carlos Carrasco said. “But you know we try to explain the importance of every single game.

“The fact that this is a team that’s probably a state championship-caliber team is going to make us better. While yes, you kind of say they don’t count, but we want to take the opportunity to use it as a measuring stick. Let’s see where we’re at, let’s see where we’re at against a good team.”

The Eagles will get another chance against the Jaguars in Belen at 6 p.m., Tuesday, April 23.