Cactus pins first loss on sluggers<br>

A sixth-inning solo home run by Cactus left-fielder Joe Cortez proved the difference in a battle of baseball unbeatens Thursday afternoon.

Mingus Union’s season-opening win streak ended at eight games with the 3-2 loss to the visiting Cobras.

The Marauders got the potential tying run aboard in the bottom of the seventh inning after Pat Lawler singled with no outs. But an errant throw to first by Cactus bounced off the dugout wall, and Lawler was thrown out trying to snatch second.

If only the ball had found the chain-link fence rather than the concrete surface — it may have dropped dead in the grass rather than rebounding right back to the first baseman like a pinball off a bumper.

Mingus junior Albert Rodriguez walked later in the inning and got to second on another passed ball. But the Marauders’ final hitter flied out to right centerfield to end the contest.

"Thursday’s game was an excellent test against an excellent team," said Mingus coach Brad Grauberger. "We continue to battle and stay in each and every ball game."

Cactus, which improved to 9-0 with the victory, looked like they might make easy work of Mingus early. The Cobras jumped to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first frame thanks to a walk, two hits and two Mingus throwing errors.

But Rodriguez, the Marauders’ starting pitcher, settled down and began finding his spots. Cactus went three up, three down in the fourth inning, while Mingus recorded two runs to tie the contest.

Chris French singled, and Lawler crushed a triple over the right fielder to bring home his teammate. The Cactus centerfielder mishandled a Devlin McCarty fly ball, and Lawler trotted home for the second score.

Rodriguez struck out three hitters in the fifth inning and got the first man out in the sixth when Cortez stepped to the plate. The clean-up hitter pounded a ball over the left-centerfield fence, bouncing it off a classroom building.

"Albert did a great job of keeping one of the state’s hottest hitting teams in check," Grauberger said. "I know he probably wants that first inning back, and one pitch in the sixth (against Cortez), but he did an excellent job. He pitched well enough to win the ball game."

Grauberger praised McCarty for putting a ball in play that led to the Marauders’ second run in the fifth inning.

"That’s twice this season he has come up to the plate and had crucial game hits with two strikes on him," the coach said. "In fact, I believe he was down 0-2 in both situations – a pressure player."

Mingus, ranked eighth in the state, met the number four team, Sunrise Mountain, yesterday (Saturday) in Peoria. That game finished after press time.

Marauder fans will have plenty of chances to see their team this week as well as other squads from Arizona, Washington and Colorado. Mingus will host a round-robin invitational beginning Thursday and running through next Monday.

The Marauders play twice Thursday – against Chinle at 11 a.m. and against Tucson Sahuaro at 1:30 p.m. Mingus will play Highline High from Seattle, Wash. on Friday at 1:30 p.m., will meet Round Valley on Saturday at 9 a.m. and will entertain Valley High from Gilcrest, Colo. on Monday at 11 a.m.

The Grand Canyon Region schedule will begin Saturday, March 24 when the Marauders visit Chinle.

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