GLENDALE — While the Glendale High baseball team is only six games into its season under first-year co-coach Chris Funaro, the Nitros' new leader has developed two different lineups – one geared toward offense and the other defense.
Funaro went with the defensive grouping Saturday in a Babe Herman Tournament contest with visiting Granada Hills. Unfortunately for the Nitros, it showed as they were held to three hits and shut out in a 5-0 loss to bring their record to 1-5 this season.
“We're trying some different things and this is a perfect time because it isn't a league game,” said Funaro, who sat several of his starters after Friday's 8-1 Pacific League-opening loss to Pasadena High. “It's a perfect time to look and see what we've got, especially when you consider we've played four games in five days.”
On the bright side, Glendale lived up to its billing on defense, as several fine plays in the field limited or halted potential Highlander rallies. It kept the Nitros within three runs through six innings, but Glendale failed to advance a runner to third the entire game, despite having five base runners (two on errors).
“You can't have three hits and expect to win a game,” said Funaro, who credited the offensive struggles to all the moving parts.
The contest started out promising enough offensively for the hosts. Glendale's Andrew Swett lined a one-out single between shortstop and third before advancing to second on a wild pitch in the bottom of the first inning.
Granada Hills pitcher Omar Nunez, who had six strikeouts in the complete-game outing, struck out the next two batters to strand Swett.
Jack Porras reached on an error with one out in the bottom of the second, but the next two Nitros batters were retired quickly to end the inning.
“It was a great pitching performance by Omar today, we really needed that,” said Granada Hills Coach Steve Thompson, whose team improve to 6-4 on the season and 1-3 on the week after playing another game that morning. “Omar stepped up and played really well for us. … He pitched like an ace today.”
Glendale starting pitcher Javier Aguayo was impressive in the complete-game effort. He gave up eight hits, hit two batters and gave up four earned runs in the loss, but kept his offense within striking distance the entire way.
“Javier pitched great today,” Funaro said. “He went 80 pitches the whole game. It's the first time all year we've had a pitcher go more than five innings; he still had great stuff.”
Aguayo's worst frame came in the third after he started it by hitting Granada Hills' Kyle Feffer, who moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and then home on a Justin Castaneda (three for four, three runs scored, two runs batted in) single just past a diving shortstop up the middle.
It was the first of three straight Highlander hits, as Clayton Hubbard put runners at second and third and cashed in Castaneda with a double over the right fielder's head after a JB Garcia single.
Glendale's defense stepped up to the frame. Ethan Howard fielded a tough high bouncing grounder at shortstop before gunning down the runner at first, while keeping the runners in position, and Nitros center fielder Sean Harris made a nice catch on the run to keep his team within 2-0.
Castaneda led Granada Hills to another run with a leadoff double in the fifth. The junior moved to third on a passed ball and then scored on a Hubbard sacrifice fly. Castaneda recorded his third and final hit in the top of the seventh inning with a one-out double that put runners at second and third.
Garcia brought home Jason Abell, who reached on an infield single, with a sacrifice fly to center and Castaneda scored on a throwing error to finish the scoring.
Glendale got runners on board in the bottom of sixth and seventh innings on singles from Thaddeus Wilson and Tyler Lousararian, respectively. Both runners were stranded at second, as the Nitros couldn't string two hits together in the loss.