PRINCETON — After Anna’s recent 7-0 loss to Melissa, perhaps some thought the Coyotes hadn’t much of a chance against undefeated Princeton at their place on Wednesday, April 4. But, to borrow from the great Ron Washington, former manager of the Texas Rangers: “That’s not the way baseball go.” Anna head coach Joey Hector and his crew certainly had other ideas as the Coyotes shut down the Panthers, 3-0, behind freshman Rawley Hector’s sterling turn on the mound and Anna hitters getting to Princeton’s ace Austin Hitchcock just enough.
“I thought they really stepped up,” Coyotes head coach Joey Hector said. “Obviously, we got a really good pitching performance. We played good defense. That guy on the mound that they have, he’s really good. He’s a tough guy. I thought our guys just competed well. We’ve had some tough times lately but we stay the course. We just keep trusting the process. We’re just going to keep on playing.”
At the midpoint of the district race, third-place Anna (3-2) remains in the hunt for a title, one game back of Princeton and Melissa. So what is Hector learning about this group of Coyotes? “I don’t know much about them,” he said. “I really don’t. They never cease to amaze us, whether it be good or bad. There are times we think it’s going to go well and they come out and don’t do anything, and there are times that they really step up.”
“It means a lot to us,” Anna designated hitter Dylan Burr said of the win, “because it’s a big game and most people didn’t expect us to come out here and win.” Burr’s two-run double to right in the fourth inning was perhaps the Coyotes’ hit of the night. Make that the season, so far.
“We weren’t expected to win,” catcher Jacob Odom said, “but we didn’t let that get us down. We came out here and played to our best ability. It was a good team effort.” Odom added that it’s been fun to catch for the highly-recruited Rawley Hector. “He’s a good pitcher. He can hit his spots very well.”
Rawley struck out 12 and walked one while scattering five hits over 6.1 innings of work. He closed out the second, third, fifth and sixth innings with a K — three of those times with a runner aboard. Zach Howard came on in the seventh for the final two outs.
“He’s pitched in some big games,” Hector said of Rawley. “He doesn’t always come through, but 99.9 percent of the time he’s going to go out there and give you what he’s got. Our kids believe in him. I obviously believe in him and he believes in himself. He understands the process of doing what he does. He’ll go right back tomorrow and get ready for the next outing.”
In a complete game for Princeton, Hitchcock struck out 11 and allowed six hits with two walks.
Up, 2-0, in the sixth, the Coyotes plated a big insurance run. Rawley and Howard opened the frame with back-to-back singles then Odom reached base on a fielder’s choice, moving Rawley to third. After Hitchcock fanned the next batter for the second out, Odom stole second on the ensuing pitch and Rawley raced home on the throw to second.
Rawley retired the Panthers in order in the sixth then turned it over to Howard with one on and one out in the seventh. Howard logged a strikeout, a hit batsmen and a ground-out to finish it and the Coyotes had served notice they intend to be in the mix down the stretch.
“I think we got down about the first quarter of the way through [district],” Burr said. “We started to have some rough times but now we’re picking it back up. We just took out the top seed in our district. If we keep rolling like we’ll be in good shape.”