Head coaches usually get doused by their players after a championship or playoff victory at the end of a season. But O.J. Favela of the Nogales High School baseball team got the Gatorade cooler treatment on Monday after the Apaches’ very first home win of the year.
The occasion? The team’s 11-5 defeat of the Douglas Bulldogs marked the 300th victory of Favela’s head-coaching career at NHS, which began 14 years ago and which has included back-to-back state championships the past two seasons.
“In 2005 I took over the program with great expectations and these last two years were the state championships – that’s just the icing on the cake,” he told the crowd at War Memorial Stadium during a brief ceremony after the game to mark the milestone.
As for the game itself, Douglas took a 1-0 lead in top of the first inning and a 3-2 advantage in the top of the second. But the Apaches responded with a seven-run outburst in the bottom half to put them in control of the contest the rest of the way.
Singles by Mike Gerardo and Fernando Rodriguez followed by a bunt hit by Ricky Maytorena loaded the bases with nobody out in the decisive inning. An infield single to third by Mario Duarte tied the score, and a balk by the Douglas pitcher sent a runner home and put Nogales ahead 4-3.
A two-run single by Jesus Lopez, a wild pitch and a run-scoring double play made it 8-3. Gerardo, who started the rally, capped it off with a two-out RBI single to extend the lead to 9-3.
The Apaches’ defense kept Douglas scoreless during the next four frames, but not without some close calls.
In the top of the third, the Bulldogs loaded the bases with two out, but starting pitcher Gerardo Martinez induced a groundout to end the threat.
In the top of the fourth, Douglas put its first two runners on. But the next hitter grounded to Brayan Espinoza at second, who tagged one runner out and threw to first to complete a double play. Martinez got the next batter to pop up to Espinoza for the third out.
Alec Acevedo came on the relieve Martinez in the fifth, and the Bulldogs loaded the bases with one down. However, the next batter bounced back to Acevedo, who threw home to catcher Kenneth Jimenez, who got the force out before firing to Miguel Vega at first to complete the 1-2-3 double play.
Douglas managed to put two more runs on the board in the seventh inning. But when NHS reliever Julian Grijalva got the final Bulldogs batter to ground out to Jorge Bojorquez at shortstop to end the game, the Apaches had raised their regular-season record to 4-0 (8-0 overall) and given Favela his milestone victory.
Speaking during the postgame ceremony, just moments before his celebratory soaking, Favela recognized his players and coaches past and present, and thanked his family.
Noting the history of great baseball players at NHS, he pointed to 1951, the year when the Apaches started winning state championships under coach James Concannon, one of only four head coaches to come before Favela at the school.
“Nogales has had great players come through this program. I’m just honored and privileged to be the fifth head coach at Nogales High School,” Favela said, concluding his remarks with: “Thank you very much, and go Tribe!”
Nogales’ next home game is at 6 p.m. on March 21 against Flowing Wells.