SURPRISE — With ace Tyler Hixon dealing on the mound, the seventh-seeded Chino Valley baseball team busted out the big sticks in the first round of the 3A State Tournament Friday night, scoring five runs apiece in the third and fourth innings en route to a 12-0 run-ruled rout of No. 10 Show Low.
At Surprise Baseball Complex, Hixon tossed a one-hit shutout, striking out six and walking three, in five innings of work to lead the Cougars to victory.
“Hixon was exactly what we needed him to be for us to do what we need to do to get ready for [Saturday’s quarterfinals],” Chino Valley coach Mark Middleton said. “He was amazing [Friday]. He was cheerful. He was up the whole game. We played loose. He led us. His attitude was phenomenal, and we jumped on his back.”
The run support Hixon received may have been an equally important piece of the story, though, as the Cougars scored their 12 runs on 11 hits.
Kaleb Chacon, who was ill on Thursday but started in the No. 9 hole, finished 3 for 3 with three RBIs and a run scored. Leadoff man Michael Paulus was 2 for 3 with a triple (on the first pitch of the game), a double, two RBIs and a run scored.
Hixon did help his own cause, though, finishing 2 for 4 with a double and a run scored from the three spot. Jaydon Harguess (1 for 2, two RBIs, two runs scored) aided in the effort.
In the field, Show Low committed five errors to Chino Valley’s one.
“We forced errors because we were so aggressive [offensively],” Middleton said. “We put runners in motion. We played small ball. We got base hits when we needed them with runners on base.”
The Cougars turn right around today, May 5, to lock horns with second-seeded Casteel, an 11-1 winner over No. 15 Winslow in their first-round clash on Friday. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Surprise Sports Complex Field No. 6, 15390 N. Bullard Ave. in Surprise.
Southpaw Abdiel Sanchez, who has a strong cutter and fastball, starts for Chino Valley this afternoon.
“I like our chances, I really do,” Middleton said. “We set the table for Game 2.”
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