Mounties’ ‘Pistol’ Whips Paraclete : High school baseball: Ortiz leads Montclair Prep into Southern Section 1-A final with 2-0 victory.
Against a Montclair Prep pitcher nicknamed Pistol and a surly, territorial catcher, Paraclete baserunners Wednesday faced a predicament as bleak as the gray sky that hung over Pierce College.
In the first four innings, five Spirit runners were erased on the basepaths. Three who attempted to steal on Montclair Prep catcher Brent Polacheck were strong-armed back into their dugouts. Another was picked off second base by pitcher Russell (Pistol) Ortiz. Yet another was tagged out in a rundown after a ground ball.
These plays made matters easier for Ortiz, who faced just two batters over the minimum in Montclair Prep’s 2-0 win in a Southern Section 1-A semifinal baseball game.
Montclair Prep (23-3) thus advanced to its first Southern Section title game since 1982, when it won the Small Schools championship. The Mounties will face Alpha League rival Village Christian, which defeated Fillmore, 12-5. The finalists will clash for the third time this season Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Blair Field in Long Beach.
Ortiz’s timely complete-game effort was a boon to Montclair Prep Coach Walt Steele.
“This leaves the whole staff for Friday,” said Steele, who indicated that senior ace Kevin Grant (12-2) will get the start. “We’ve been going with the same rotation the whole year and we were just real confident that we were gonna get a good performance out of Russell.”
Ortiz, a 15-year-old sophomore, showed a fastball worthy of his varsity status in striking out six and allowing just three singles.
“When I pitch, I don’t really get nervous,” Ortiz said. “Coach told us they were a swinging team that tries to hit the ball. So I just kept the ball low.”
As a result, he kept Paraclete from an uprising. Ortiz (7-1) walked just one batter; the only baserunners Paraclete (15-8) stranded were those on first and second in the seventh inning. Others found themselves headed to the dugout early.
“I don’t like baserunners trying to run on me at all,” Polacheck said. “With Russell pitching like he was today, his delivery helps me. He hums it real quick and I can get a good release.”
Paraclete pitcher Derek McMurtry (4-2), meanwhile, was weaving a tidy one-hitter of his own heading into the fifth inning. With the game scoreless, Montclair Prep right fielder Jared Baumblatt walked and went to second on Ortiz’s single to left.
Mountie first baseman Andy Shaw turned on a McMurtry offering, driving a long single to the fence in right field to score Baumblatt and move Ortiz to third. Leadoff hitter Leland Sparks knocked a sacrifice fly to center field to score Ortiz.
A 2-0 cushion was more than sufficient for Pistol, so nicknamed by Mountie shortstop Keyaan Cook for his unusual arm strength.
“For a No. 2 pitcher,” Steele beamed, “he’s one of the best around.”