Amarillo College baseball splits season-opening series with No. 8 Johnson County

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David De Hoyos (15) of Amarillo College is celebrated by his teammates after hitting a walk-off home run against Johnson County Community College on Sunday afternoon at Hodgetown. [Nathan Heuer/ AC athletics]

By Nathan Heuer

Securing a pair of wins over a team ranked in the top 10 for the first time in program history? Check.

Having two walk-off victories in back-to-back games? Check.

David De Hoyos hitting two home runs and a .455 average in his Badger debut? Check.

The Amarillo College baseball team went toe-to-toe with eighth-ranked Johnson County Community College to begin their 2024 season at Hodgetown Stadium on Saturday and Sunday.

The Badgers split a four-game series against the Cavaliers as Amarillo College won game two on Saturday and game three on Sunday in walk-off fashion.

“The biggest takeaway from the weekend is how we defended and pitched. That’s the mark of a good club and a championship team,” Badger head coach Brandon Rains said. “Overall, it was a good weekend, and we have a lot of good things to build on.”

Redshirt freshman outfielder Chris Benavidez hit a hard groundball past the Johnson County shortstop in the eighth inning of game two on Saturday to give the Badgers a 7-6 victory following a 4-3 defeat in game one.

“I saw a slider on the pitch before and I was a little ahead of it. I stayed back on the next one and made good contact,” Benavidez said of his gaming-winning hit. “I’m proud of the guys. That’s a team win.”

The Blinn Community College transfer and leadoff hitter for the Badgers ended the four-game homestand with a .357 batting average, five hits, one double, one stolen base, and two runs scored.

After a pair of extra-inning games on Saturday, the Badgers walk-off encore commenced with a David De Hoyos home run to end game three and take a 2-1 series lead via a 4-1 final score. The three-run blast was De Hoyos’ second home run of the series as the San Antonio native hit a solo shot in the game one on Saturday.

“It was an incredible game and well defended and pitched by both clubs,” Rains said. “David had one of the hardest hits I’ve seen in a long time. It was a very impressive performance by him.”

De Hoyos tallied a team-best .455 batting average, going 5-of-11 at the plate. The 6-foot-3 third baseman filled the stat sheet during the four-game series, recording two doubles, five runs, and four RBIs.

Johnson County defeated AC 13-1 in a five-inning contest via run rule to conclude play on Sunday.

Amarillo College is scheduled to host Garden City Community College for a four-game series this upcoming weekend. The Badgers will begin play at noon on Saturday and Sunday. The second game of each doubleheader starts 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first contest.

Amarillo College second baseman and Randall graduate Payton Bush applies a tag on a Johnson County Community College base runner. [Nathan Heuer/ AC athletics]

Game 1

Purdue baseball commit Gabe Watson got his first career start on the mound and the right-handed pitcher from Hewitt, Texas didn’t disappoint. Watson struck out five batters, allowed three hits, and gave up one earned run in four innings of work.

Freshman Noah Turner threw the final four innings and recorded a team-best strikeout total (6) over the weekend.

In the field, freshman second baseman Payton Bush made numerous outstanding plays, including a diving tag for an out on a steal attempt. The Randall High School graduate had two putouts and seven assists in the field over the weekend.

De Hoyos led the team with two hits and a home run.

Rutgers University baseball signee Jan Avila, the Badgers shortstop, had the team’s lone triple of the contest.

Game 2

The Badgers held a 6-2 lead heading into the sixth inning behind an electric performance at the plate by returning sophomore first baseman Grant Watkins.

Watkins tallied three hits, which included a solo home run in the third inning, four RBIs, and two runs.

2023 WJCAC First-Team honoree Sydney Ward hit his 22nd career home run and first dinger of the season two at-bats before Watkins in the third frame.

Freshman outfielder Gerardo Prado tied Watkins for a team-high hit total (3).

Freshman pitcher Bret Deegan, a Klein Oak High School graduate, threw three hitless innings to pace the Badgers on the mound. The two-way standout, who also was the team’s DH in game one, recorded the win in his first career start.

Game 3

A textbook pitcher’s duel unfolded through the first five innings of Sunday’s opening game.

Freshman pitcher Duncan Bowles, a Randall High alum, threw four scoreless innings and accumulated four strikeouts in the process before his day was done due to a pitch-count threshold.

Johnson County garnered a 1-0 lead in the sixth, but the Badgers escaped the inning with two runners on base.

Returning sophomore pitcher Cam Saleh claimed the win on the mound in the final inning with two strikeouts.

Ward hit a sacrifice fly, bringing home Gerardo Prado to tie the game.

De Hoyos then stepped to the plate and hit the game-winning homer on a 3-1 count. He finished the game with a team-high three RBIs and two hits.

Game 4

Johnson County scored two runs in the first inning and seven in the second en route to a 13-1 run-rule victory.

The Cavaliers outhit the Badgers 13-3 in the contest.

Benavidez, Aidan Young, and Jan Avila tallied one hit apiece for the Badgers.

Longmont, Colorado native and freshman transfer pitcher Evan Pitcher threw the final three innings and recorded two strikeouts and no walks.

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