By Kevin Wilson
PORTALES — It took only three pitches for Stephan Mills to make his mark. It took about 90 more minutes for the pitching to leave a lasting impression.
Mills hit a leadoff homer and combined with Seth Baily on a three-hitter to top a similar effort from Joe Sandoval, and the American All-Stars defeated the Roosevelt All-Stars 3-2 in District 3 Major League tournament winners’ bracket game Saturday night at Rotary Park.
Both Monday’s and Tuesday’s games are slated for 7 p.m. starts.
Mills and, to a smaller extent, Baily dueled with Sandoval in a fast-moving pitchers’ duel that lasted a little over an hour and a half. Mills allowed two unearned runs on two hits in his 4 1/3 innings of work, and Baily pitched the remaining 1 2/3 innings for the save.
“Our starting pitcher gave us the innings we needed out of him,” American coach Tom Drake said. “Seth Baily did his job, and you can’t ask for anything more than that.”
The last time Drake was at Rotary Park, he was coaching the American Yankees in the championship game in the Tri-County tournament — a game which saw his team rally from down 10-1 and 14-12 to win 15-14 in the bottom of the sixth.
Saturday’s game provided quite the contrast. After Mills homered on the third pitch of the game, the score stayed at 1-0 for the next three innings.
Neither team could get into any type of offensive rhythm, and errors became the primary method to score runs against Mills and Sandoval.
Baily made it 2-0 in the fourth with an RBI groundout to short to score Marco Posada, then an overthrow back to home plate allowed Josh Potocki to score from second.
Roosevelt cut the deficit in the bottom of the fourth as an error in the outfield turned Brandon Adkins’ single into three bases. Adkins scored on a groundout by John Moore.
Roosevelt scored another run in the fifth as a result of a bungled pickoff attempt, but Baily was in control after that. The right-hander gave up a two-out single to Michael Trujillo in the sixth, but struck out the other three hitters in the inning for the save.
“We just didn’t hit the ball, flat-out,” Roosevelt coach Sammy Villanueva said. “(We had) good defense and good pitching, (we) just didn’t hit the ball.”
Sandoval was the hard-luck loser for Roosevelt, with seven strikeouts and one walk.