By Kevin Wilson
FLOYD — It felt like nothing for Dora freshman Casey O’Connor when he hit the first home run of his life.
Likewise, it felt like nothing when he and his Coyote teammates jumped out to a 14-0 lead over Floyd. In the end, Dora needed all seven innings to beat the host Broncos 16-7 Friday at Bronco Field.
Senior Jason Parker picked up the win for the Coyotes with five innings of work before giving way to Brent Hays for the final two innings, as the Broncos (7-5, 3-4) nipped away at the lead and held off a run-ruled win for the Coyotes.
“We dug ourselves a 14-run hole, and that’s tough to dig out of,” Floyd coach Mark Poynor said. “I was really proud of the way the kids kept fighting. It looked like it was going to be a laugher.”
The Coyotes looked well on their way to a blowout win, with a touchdown (seven runs) in each of the first two innings, the Coyotes sent 10 batters to the plate, with scoring capped off by a left-field blast from O’Connor at the No. 9 spot in the order.
“ If felt good. It felt like I didn’t even hit it,” said O’Connor, who never played Little League baseball. “I couldn’t even feel it. The first base coach told me it was out and I was like, ‘Dang.’”
Third baseman Tyler Wilhoit also homered for the Coyotes, with a two-run shot in the second to make it 10-0.
By the time Bronco pitcher and cleanup hitter Chance Chenault got in an at-bat to lead off the second, the Coyotes had already gotten at least one hit from seven of their starters.
Cheanult wasn’t completely to blame, however — his Floyd teammates made eight errors on the day, and 14 of the 16 runs Chenault gave up were unearned.
Cheanult regrouped from the third inning on, allowing two unearned runs on no hits over the next five innings. He struck out the side in the third and fifth innings, and ended the day with 11 strikeouts against six walks.
The Bronco bats came alive in the third and the Coyotes caught the error bug, as four errors helped pave the way for a four-run inning.
“We went out and gave them a little bit of life,” Dora coach Ty Thatcher said. “We kicked the ball around a little bit and they took advantage.”
In the end, though, the Coyotes were never seriously challenged as the Broncos got no closer than eight runs. Hays came in during the top of the sixth inning and held the lead for Parker, pitching two innings of hitless ball with three strikeouts.
“We did that earlier against Eunice,” Thatcher said of the pitching pair. “Brent came in and pitched well. It’s a good combination in a single-game situation.”
Poynor said that the Broncos would have clinched a playoff berth by winning at Dora and again Monday at Santa Rosa, and felt the team was so excited for the game that the players might have tried to do too much in the first two innings.
“We outplayed them for five innings, they outplayed us for two innings,” Poynor said. “But those two innings were enough.”
Notes: Dora improved to 6-7, 4-2 in District 7-1A/2A with the win, but was swept Saturday in a home doubleheader against Portales … Poynor felt the Bronco season will be full of positive notes, even without a playoff appearance. Floyd can finish no worse than 7-6, meaning the team will post a winning season after going 4-12 in 2003. Also, shortstop Wade Mobley will end the season with single-season school records for homers and runs batted in … Floyd shortstop Ryan Ruiz didn’t lose a popup in the sun, but lost a grounder in his shirt. A seventh-inning foul ball from Dora shortstop Philip Danbom found its way into the neckline of Ruiz’ jersey, and finally came to a stop inside his uniform.