Plans to rest their ace pitcher, Morgan Earman, went awry for the Desert Christian Academy baseball team Friday, with the top prospect coming on in relief and picking up the victory in the 6-1 win over Southland (Walnut) in a first-round Division VI CIF Southern Section playoff game.
DCA head coach Mark Salazar chose to go with No. 2 starting pitcher Austin Hughes in the first-round matchup, but it nearly proved costly in the first inning when he loaded the bases with two out on two walks and a hit batsman. But Hughes got Cort Scribner, the No. 6 Southland hitter, to ground out.
The Conquerors picked up two runs in the bottom of the first on a Nate Loewen home run to left center with Marshall Webb — who walked — on base, to take a 2-0 lead that was never relinquished.
But the top of the second was a repeat of the first with Hughes loading the bases again with two out, this time with a pair of walks and an error. That would be it for Hughes, who was lifted for Earman, who struck out the next batter to retire the side.
“Not really nervous, just frustrated because we worked so hard on first-pitch strikes, we worked so hard on not walking guys,” Salazar said. “Once bases were loaded the second time — it’s one thing if he’s downing guys, but he just wasn’t throwing enough strikes, so it was either Earman or (Chris) Palmer and once I started walking out, Earman, (who was playing first base), kind of said, ‘hey, put me in coach.’ “
That strategy worked out pretty well, as the senior struck out eight of 12 batters he faced, allowing an infield single, a walk and an unearned run along the way.
All that without warming up.
“I could just tell on my coach’s face. He was walking and looking at me, so I figured I was going to go in, so I took the initiative and just said, ‘Do you want me to throw?’ I didn’t plan on going that many innings, but it was all good,” Earman said.
“(Not warming up) kind of helped even, it makes you not have to think. You just go in and you have to do a job so it makes it a little bit easier sometimes.”
Salazar let Earman pitch 31⁄3 innings, earning the victory along the way, before bringing in Palmer to finish up the game.
None of the pitchers used in Friday’s game will be limited next week when the Conquerors play a second-round game Tuesday.
CIF rules limit pitchers to 10 innings per week beginning each Monday and ending each Sunday.
The Conquerors will play Buckley on Tuesday. The site of the game will be determined by coin flip today. Palmer is expected to get the start for DCA.