SANTA FE, N.M. — Some of the batters Paradise Hills Little League pitcher Isaiah Brown faced Saturday in its opener of the 2014 Junior Southwest Region Baseball Tournament towered over him by more than a foot.
“I was a little intimidated,” Brown admitted. “I was nervous at first, but once I settled in, I felt good. I felt confident out there.”
Using a mixture of slow curves and slower changeups but hardened by ferocious control, the diminutive Brown, who needs to stand on his tippy-toes to approach 5 feet tall, kept the powerhouse Texas West Oil Belt Little League at bay for almost six innings.
In the end, though, his outstanding performance on the mound wasn’t quite enough as Texas West rallied from a late deficit to win 4-3.
“He’s my little secret weapon,” Paradise Hills manager David Crespin said. “He kept them off balance. They couldn’t hit his off-speed stuff.”
Crespin scouted Texas West’s first game Friday and saw what the team did to fireballers, so he determined to go with Brown as long as he was effective.
“They hit it all over the place,” he said. “But I thought Isaiah would be able to fool them.”
Texas West, from Corpus Christi, certainly came away impressed.
“I don’t think he threw a pitch that was more than 70 miles an hour, but he did a fantastic job,” Texas West manager Bubba Broughton said. “It was an amazing effort and he did it for almost six innings.”
It was a scoreless game until the fifth when Texas West scored a run on a double to left field from Noah Rios.
Paradise Hills responded with two runs in the top of the sixth on RBI hits from T.J. Montoya and Aidan McNichol. McNichol’s double to left center proved to be a turning point. Montoya, who injured his knee in the previous round of playoffs, had to be removed for pinch runner David Crespin Jr., the starting catcher. Texas West left fielder Matt Castro made a quick dash to cut off McNichols’ shot from getting through the gap and Crespin was out at the plate.
“That cost us,” manager Crespin said. “That was my fault, but we were going for it.”
Texas West finally got to Brown in the sixth, stringing together three straight hits that led to three runs. Paradise Hills’ seventh-inning rally came up short with Marcus Garcia on second representing the tying run.
Still, Paradise Hills put a scare in a West Texas squad generally regarded as one of the tournament favorites.
“They had me a lot worried,” Broughton said. “Hats off to that team. They hit us in the mouth pretty good. We found a way to win, but I don’t know how. This was the fewest runs we’ve scored since All-Stars started.”
Although the tournament hosts came up short, Crespin said it was a good game.
“I think overall we did a good job,” he said. “We’re disappointed by the loss, but nobody expected us to be able to do anything. I think we surprised a lot of people.”
Brown said the team is looking forward to the rest of the tournament, which continues through Wednesday.
“I think we did play good,” he said. “And we know we can beat them the next time.”
New Mexico’s other participant in the seven-team tournament, Roswell, also lost on Saturday, 10-2 to Texas East.
ABQ EASTDALE 17, BILOXI (Miss.) 1 (4 inn.): In Waco, Texas, the Eastdale All-Stars (ages 11-12) scored 13 runs in the top of the first en route to a victory over Mississippi in the Southwestern Regional.
The New Mexico champs, 2-0 in Waco, can earn the top seed in the three-team Pool A and a berth in Tuesday’s semifinals with a win against Colorado at 7:30 tonight. If Eastdale loses, its fate rests on what happens Monday when Arkansas faces Mississippi. If Arkansas wins, Eastdale is in. If Mississippi prevails, it comes down to tiebreakers.
Nicky Gaeto, son of Eastdale coach Ed Gaeto, hit a grand slam and an RBI double in the first inning among his four hits. He also was the winning pitcher, yielding two hits.
Phoenix Autrey added four hits for Eastdale, including a homer. Collin McWethey also went deep.
“Mississippi’s a good team,” coach Gaeto said, “but we were on today. Everybody in the lineup came to hit. And we fielded terrific.”