HomeSportsSeniors Lead Nitros Past Tornados, 7-1

Seniors Lead Nitros Past Tornados, 7-1

The first matchup this season between rival high schools Glendale and Hoover would be the last time a group of nine Nitro seniors donned their home jerseys, and they made the most of it.
“It’s a historic rivalry we’ve had with Hoover forever. I played in this game a long time ago,” Glendale coach Frank Taormina said. “Our guys were fired up today. It’s a special game because each team knows each other so well.”
Led by seniors on the mound and at the plate, host Glendale cruised to a 7-1 victory over the visiting Tornados at Stengel Field Tuesday night in Pacific League action.
“Those seniors have battled all season long and it showed again tonight,” Taormina said.
Five Nitro seniors took turns on the mound, limiting Hoover to three hits while striking out a combined 12 Tornados.
Senior Javier Solis, pitching on his birthday, started and tossed the first three innings to earn the win. Solis gave up two hits and one run while striking out four.
“This was a special night for me and my family,” Solis said. “It’s been a long four years of high school, with three years here at Glendale with these guys. These guys are family; I love every single one of these guys. I’ve had a blast coming to this school. It is the best decision I have ever made in my life.”
Nitro senior Neil Dewan pitched a perfect fourth inning, striking out the last batter he faced. Next up was teammate Sean Forero, who pitched a perfect fifth inning while striking out the first and last batter he faced. The sixth inning saw Levi Valadez, another GHS senior, take the mound and set down Hoover in order while striking out the first two Tornados he faced.
For the seventh inning, when Nitros’ catcher Frankie Malagon took the mound; it marked the first time the senior had pitched in high school. Malagon struck out the first batter he faced on four pitches.
Hoover’s Fernando Gallegos, the lone senior on the Tornados’ roster, then hit a double before Malagon struck out the next two batters to seal the win.
“I’ve been a catcher my whole life, and [was] never allowed to go up on the mound, so I just had some fun tonight on senior night. I begged Coach all year, and he let me go there and it was pretty good,” Malagon understatedly said of striking out the side.
At the plate, all six runs driven in by Glendale came from seniors, with the other run scoring on an error. Additionally, six of their seven runs scored were notched by seniors, with the other being scored by a pinch runner on base in place of a senior.
GHS senior Erik Chavez led off the bottom of the first inning with a double. He stole third base and then scored the first run of the contest when he was driven in by senior Josh Hopkins on a groundout.
The bottom of the second inning began with the first three Nitros, all seniors, reaching base by hitting singles. Valadez led off with a single to left field and then stole second base. This allowed the next batter, Forero, to drive him in with a single to right field. Soon after, he stole second base, setting the stage for Glendale senior Aaron Ruiz to drive Forero home with a single.
In the bottom of the third inning, the hosts put up two more runs. With two outs and Hopkins, who had reached on a single and stolen second base, in scoring position, Solis reached on an error, allowing Hopkins to score. Valadez followed by swatting a double into the left field corner to drive in junior Brandon Guzman, who had come in to run for Solis.
The final runs of the contest came in the bottom of the sixth, when the Nitros strung together three two-out singles. The first was an infield single by Hopkins, which loaded the bases. Malagon followed with another infield single to plate Dewan, who had reached earlier on a walk. Solis was next and rolled a single past the Hoover shortstop to score Nitro senior Dedreck Harris, who had reached earlier on an error, for the final run of the contest.
“The rivalry between Glendale and Hoover is just amazing,” Malagon said. “You grow up playing with these guys, playing against them sometimes, and then to come out here and play against them again at a high school level, with some kind of meaning behind it, there’s nothing like it.”
The lone Hoover run came in the top of the third. Tornado freshman Daniel Cano led off with a single that ricocheted off Solis’ legs. Four batters later, Hoover’s freshman catcher Isaiah Magana drove him home with a two-out double to the left-center field gap.
Freshman Jordan Mahler went the distance on the mound for Hoover, allowing nine hits and striking out four.
“I thought our team played really hard and made a bunch of nice plays. We hit the ball well,” Hoover coach Louis Mele said. “Got to give credit to Glendale: nine seniors and they are all solid players.”

First published in the April 29 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.

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