Seven runs in the first inning can make any coach look pretty good — even a rookie.
Zia League coach Tony Johnson, 18, looked like a genius when his team jumped on Clovis American for a seven-spot in the top of the first Saturday. Zia cruised to a 15-3 win in the winners bracket final of the District 3 Junior League All-Star tournament at Brady Field.
The lopsided win earned Zia a spot in the finals Tuesday night.
“This is my first year of coaching,” said Johnson, a recent high school graduate in Albuquerque who was visiting family in Clovis earlier this summer and accepted an opportunity to coach in the league.
“We’ve got a good ballteam, a lot of good kids,” Johnson said. “We’ve been playing all-around good baseball the last couple of weeks.”
Zia won its first-round game on Friday when Roosevelt County lost three players to injury in the first three innings and had to forfeit. American defeated Quay County 7-5.
Because of the injuries, the Roosevelt County-Quay County game was pushed back to today. That winner will face American at 6:30 p.m. Monday for the right to join Zia in the finals.
Zia managed only three hits in the first inning, but parlayed four walks and four American errors into its early cushion.
“The first inning hurt us and put us in a hole,” American coach Rudy Sierra said. “But we’re not out of (the tournament). We’ve got a lot of talent on this team, and we’re still going to give it our best shot.”
Zia finished with eight hits. Third baseman Nathan Lewis went 2 for 2 with two walks, three runs scored and an RBI while Sean Martinez entered the game in the fourth inning and collected two singles, a run and an RBI.
Gary Hanks pitched the first three innings and Abe Montoya the final two for Zia. They combined to hold American to three hits.
Zia scored in each of the five innings, getting an RBI double from Bubba Cordova in the third and RBI singles from Josh Burrell in the fourth and Martinez in the fifth.
American got on the board in the second when Victor Salazar walked and eventually scored on an error. Andrew Mahefka hit an RBI double in the third, while Rudy Sierra walked, took third on T.J. Farmer’s double and scored on Rick Sierra’s groundout in the fifth.