Holding nothing back Saturday afternoon while pitching the final inning of a decorated multisport career, Jasen Engel dared the opposing 7-8-9 hitters to catch up to his fastball – still popping catcher Travis Beeson’s mitt as hard as it had when he’d swiftly retired Ignacio’s 1-2-3 sticks four frames earlier.
His first two offerings were slightly off-target as he reloosened his right arm after Montezuma-Cortez’s lengthy at-bat in the top of the fifth produced three runs, two of them from Engel’s bat, with his legs logging the third.
His next – and last – nine deliveries: Strike, strike, strike to Bobcat designated hitter Bryce Finn. Strike, strike, strike to catcher Lawrence Toledo. Strike, strike, strike to first baseman/relief pitcher Adam House.
An immaculate inning, more or less, to cap a 14-1 nonleague road win and the Panthers’ 2018 season.
“Yeah, I threw a few balls today,” grinned Engel, who followed up his 57-pitch, perfect-game performance against the Bobcats (4-15, 1-6 2A/1A San Juan Basin) back on April 26 with a 70-pitch no-hitter. He also went 3-for-4 offensively – including a three-run, opposite-field homer to right off Ignacio senior Kai Roubideaux (L; 3.1 IP, 6 H, 9 R, 7 ER, 4 BB, 7 K) in the fourth – scored three runs and plated five.
Junior Cordell Baer, batting right behind Engel in the visitors’ order, finished 3-for-3 with a homer, triple, walk and ground-rule double, three runs scored and as many driven in. Bidding for a rare “reverse” cycle, his long ball to left with senior Cutter Matthews (0-1, BB, R) and Engel aboard gave Montezuma-Cortez (4-12, 1-9 3A Intermountain) a quick 3-0 lead in the top of the first.
“It was just there,” he said. “Right in my zone, and I just swung at it ... and it went all the way out!”
Beeson then walked against Roubideaux, and courtesy runner Ernie Padilla (0-0, 2 R) promptly took second on a wild pitch to Andrew Medina (0-2, 2 BB), reached third via a passed ball on Toledo, then scored on a delayed double-steal when Medina, who’d walked, swiped second and drew Toledo’s throw.
Roubideaux settled down to strike out DH Brandon McMillian (1-4, RBI) and Kolby Waltman, but irreparable damage was done, and the Panthers weren’t to be caught. Beeson (1-2, 2 BB) bashed a ground-rule double in the top of the third, plating Baer after his triple, and then scored on a McMillan single to right to put M-CHS up 6-0. And highlighted by Engel’s blast, the guests put up a decisive 5-spot in the top of the fourth.
Starting in left field with the home team’s roster decimated by various absences, Ignacio’s Cesar Pedregon – whose fourth-inning misplay of a two-out McMillian fly allowed both Baer and Beeson to score – managed to draw a second-inning walk but was stranded when Engel fanned Finn.
The only other offensive production the Bobcats could muster on a lackluster Senior Day was when senior Marcus Chapman, pressed into duty at shortstop rather than his regular first-base role, skied a third-inning pitch to left, where Waltman couldn’t make the grab – allowing Chapman to scoot ahead to second base.
Ian Weinreich then bounced a pitch at reserve shortstop Ty Blackmer – Matthews had been ejected for disputing a called third strike, ending the top of the second inning – who was unable to make a clean throw to Medina, allowing both Weinreich to reach, and Chapman to sprint home for the unearned run.
“We’re averaging a lot more than that,” Baer said, of the two errors, “so it was a good, well-rounded day.”
“Next year, we’ll have a little motivation. We’ve got to get back to where we were last year – we were a winning team – and this year wasn’t what we wanted,” he said. “We’ve been struggling the whole year, and it’s good to end it like this.”
Brilliant at batEngel and Baer combined to go 6-for-7 in the rout, cracking five extra-base hits, scoring six runs and racking up a devastating eight RBI in the season finale.
“In the outfield when we were praying, I told everyone to have fun – it was the last game of the year,” said Baer. “Me and Jasen, we’ve been playing sports for three years together now, and ... it’s just kind of a bond. We knew that we had to step up, be big in the lineup, and we did.”