MHS Ricky Alba throws a 2-hitter in win over Kingsburg

Calm, cool and collected on the mound, it’s hard to tell if Ricky Alba is pitching out of a 3-0 count or sitting ahead with an 0-2 about to record another strikeout.

The senior ace for fifth-seed Monache High School (16-12, 7-8 EYL) baseball looked composed and unfazed in the team’s 11-0 shutout of visiting 12th-seed Kingsburg (10-19) in Wednesday’s opening round game of the CIF Central Section Division IV playoffs.

And that was before and after the Marauders poured in nine runs for a 9-0 lead in the bottom of the third.

“He’s just, he’s fearless,” MHS head coach A.J. Watts said. “If you’re going to use an analogy on him, he’s 100 percent an overachiever and he’s a bulldog on the mound. He’s got a different presence, different feel. It’s different talking to him on days that he’s on the mound. He’s very, very comfortable up there.”

Alba pitched a complete game, giving up just two hits and one walk through seven with three strikeouts as well. He also had a no-hitter through five innings and only two or three two-ball counts besides the walk, according to Watts.

“Back to Ricky, that’s where you win and lose games,” Watts said. “At this level and other levels it’s can your pitcher give your defense the opportunity to play catch.”

And play catch is exactly what the Marauders were able to do with Alba pitching. Most of the team’s outs were secured routinely but on a couple of occasions it was a diving play by second baseman Tori Powell or a high-flying snag by first baseman Aaron Hernandez that helped keep the Vikings off the scoreboard.

But it was at the plate in the third where Monache got room to breathe and showed depth.

The bottom third of the lineup, Anthony Carabay, Alba and Aidan Galvan, loaded the bases with a hit by pitch and back-to-back bunts, respectively. Then the top and middle of the lineup, Matthew Cloyd, Hernandez, Powell and Troy Nieto — the 2-3-4-5 hitters — brought everyone in on RBIs with Hernandez and Powell hitting doubles back to back.

Monache went through the entire lineup once and eight of the nine hitters scored with Alba scoring twice for the big inning. Batting eighth, Alba went 3 for 4 with three runs scored and was one of the team’s top hitters for the game.

“I have confidence in the balance of our lineup,” Watts said. “None of this was real shocking to me. That right hander they had going, he was good and we kind of put together a game plan [because] we thought we’d get him, and the kids executed it and it was just well done. It was well played.”

Kingsburg’s Dalton Alford got the start for the Vikings but came out after the third. Lefty Adam Bratton relieved Alford for the fourth inning but came out after giving up a two-run RBI-single, another double to Powell and walking Nieto, Bratton was relieved after 1 ⅔ innings in the fifth by Ray Castro, who closed the game.

The Vikings got to third base just once in the game in the top of the third after two stolen bases in one at-bat. But a fly ball to Monache’s Alexza Sandoval in right field ended the inning.

Hernandez went 3 for 4 with a double, four RBIs and a run scored to lead the Marauders while Powell was 2 for 4 with two doubles, an RBI and a run scored. Cloyd had two RBIs and two runs scored.

Coming off a four-game losing streak to end the East Yosemite League in fourth, Monache looked like a completely different team then last week — and they looked and sounded it like it too. There were high-fives after double plays, dancing after big hits and lots of cheering from an involved dugout.

Now Monache turns their focus to Friday’s quarterfinal game between the winner of Wednesday’s opening round game between fourth-seed Dos Palos (19-6) and 13th-seed Yosemite (16-12). A final score for that game was not available as of press time.

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