QUARTZ HILL — Quartz Hill senior pitcher Ryan Sanders focused on his goal of throwing strikes and keeping the ball down against Knight on Friday.
Sanders was able to focus on his goals in the Golden League opener for the defending champion Rebels and block out the unfavorable conditions for a pitcher: extreme wind and cold.
The Quartz Hill left-hander excelled on the mound, finishing with a no-hitter in a 4-0 Quartz Hill victory at Quartz Hill High School.
Sanders struck out 14 batters and gave up two walks in seven shutout innings.
“I feel like I threw well,” Sanders said. “I just tried to keep the ball down in the zone, especially on a windy day like this. A ball up in the air just carries. I feel like I found the zone well and just kind of did our thing today.”
It was the league opener for both teams after their game scheduled for Thursday was postponed to Monday at Knight High.
Quartz Hill (6-3, 1-0) has won the league title six consecutive seasons, going undefeated in league play the last two years, and sharing the championship with Knight (3-2, 0-1) in 2014.
The strong winds and temperature in the high 40s early in the game did not favor the batters.
Sanders dominated, retiring the first five batters he faced until giving up a two-out walk in the second inning. He ultimately struck out three batters in the inning.
“It was OK. It was a good win,” Quartz Hill coach Aaron Kavanagh said. “Ryan carried us. Ryan threw well. I would like some better approaches at the plate tomorrow and Monday.”
Kavanagh said the key for Sanders was throwing strikes.
“Ryan threw a lot of strikes,” Kavanagh said. “Kept them off balance with good changeup and good curveball. He threw well today. It’s a tough day to be a pitcher. The ball gets up, it can fly out of here. Keep it down and keep it in, so they can’t get extension on it.”
Sanders struck out the side in order in the third, striking out five in a row at one point.
“It’s tough. We haven’t had a lot of practice because of the weather,” Knight coach Matthew Winck said. “We haven’t seen a lot of live pitching, because of all the games cancelled. We had like a little week off and I think it really affected our hitting today. We never really looked like we were comfortable in the box today. That’s a credit to their pitcher as well. Sanders, he kept us off balance with three quality pitches today. I think this was a good start to the season, though, for us. We really battled. We had some mistakes and we battled through them, so that’s a good sign. Because that’s what it’s going to take to win on Monday and going forward.”
Sanders gave up his second walk with two outs in the fourth inning, but Quartz Hill senior catcher Tanner Allison threw out the Knight runner trying to steal second on a throw to Quartz Hill senior shortstop Jeovanny Delgado to end the inning.
“Maintaining focus is a big part of what we do here at practice,” Sanders said. “Every time we do a rep, you stay focused, because otherwise if you aren’t focused, you won’t get a good rep in. Practice carries over into the games.”
Knight senior Julian Herrera reached on an error with one out in the fifth, when he hit a line drive to first that the Quartz Hill first baseman dropped.
Sanders, a third-year varsity player, struck out the next two Knight batters and five of the final eight batters to end the game.
“Definitely different, but it was still good,” Sanders said of the league opener. “We still have a little bit of work to do on our offense. We’re going to come back tomorrow and work on that and just maintain the offense.”
“We definitely want to keep the legacy going from the last few years. We want to add another Golden League title this year.”
Meanwhile the Rebels’ offense provided early run support that would be more than enough.
Senior Mike Marshall led off the second inning with a single, but was forced out at second on a ground ball by Allison, who was able to reach on an error in what could have been a double play.
Allison, who stole second, instead scored on a single by senior outfielder Noah Manzano.
“It felt good to kind of get everything going,” said Manzano, a second-year varsity player who transferred from Paraclete his sophomore year. “I started a little bit slow this year. To kind of calm down and know my place in the lineup and know how to do my job, it felt good. I thought I did a good job today, putting the ball in play and hitting it hard.
“Usually when you have a team that comes from down below this is our advantage, but for a team like Knight, this is their advantage too. You just got to remember the fundamentals and go through your fundamentals, because that’s what’s ultimately going to win you the game, playing catch and being able to hit in this wind.”
Manzano, the No. 8 batter was one of three Quartz Hill batters to finish with two hits, along with No. 9 batter, senior Zack Johnson, and Marshall, who went 2-for-2.
“I definitely think we could have done a better job at squaring up,” Manzano said. “We could have been a little bit smarter with our contact of putting the ball in play. Other than that I thought Ryan threw a great game today, which obviously kept us in it. It’s going to be our pitchers that start it and we have to make sure that we finish it at the end.
“When you’re not chasing runs it always feels good at the plate. So you can go up there and hit the ball hard, but we definitely need to pick it up and we have a chance tomorrow to do so. I think it’s going to be a good bounce back tomorrow.”
The Rebels will host Burbank-Burroughs at 11 a.m. today in a makeup game from the Lancaster West Rotary Tournament.
Quartz Hill scored three runs in the third, sending nine batters to the plate.
Johnson led off the third with a single and senior Nathan Hernandez hit a one-out double, to put runners at second and third for junior Andrew Allanson, who hit a dribbler down the third-base line. Johnson just beat the throw home.
Junior third baseman Tyler Christner hit a bloop single to center to drive in Hernandez and Marshall followed with a sacrifice fly to right, that allowed Allanson to tag from third and score, giving the Rebels a 4-0 lead that would be more than enough for Sanders.
Knight junior pitcher John Oljuich gave up four runs on eight hits in five innings, while senior Sergio Esqueda gave up one hit in one inning of relief for the Hawks.
Knight plays a two-game series against Lancaster next week on Wednesday and Friday, while Quartz Hill will face Littlerock.