Warriors honor fallen teammate in ceremony (video)
By BY CLAY WHITTINGTON - CWHITTINGTON@VICAD.COM
April 14, 2012 at midnight
Updated April 13, 2012 at 11:14 p.m.
Victoria West had a shaky start to its home game against Gregory-Portland.
But it was understandable.
After all, it is difficult to focus on an opponent when tears are in your eyes.
Prior to the game, a memorial was held at Riverside Stadium for sophomore pitcher Austin Davis, who died suddenly earlier in the week.
There was a moment of silence following the announcement of the starting lineups and West players circled around the pitchers mound, where Davis' parents and brother stood with a baseball glove and hat placed on the rubber.
Davis was named the starting pitcher for the game.
Moments later, Michael Mikulenka was sent into the game to throw the opening pitch.
"I had to go out there and make that change, I look at all my infielders and there is nothing but tears in their eyes," West head coach Manuel Alvarado said. "Now, I'm asking Mike to come out there and pitch. It's tough."
Immediately, the Wildcats claimed a 3-0 lead as each of the first three batters rounded the bases before the inning was over.
"I just told the kids when they came in that we had to get out of that first inning," Alvarado recalled. "If we get out of the first inning, everything is going to fine, and the kids responded."
By the time the first inning concluded, the Warriors had pulled even with the Wildcats.
It was the first step toward a 13-5 victory for West that included a seven-run fifth inning capped off by Miles Manning's grand slam - his second of the season.
"It's been real hard (to focus on baseball), but, when we get on the field, we try not to think about that," Manning said. "(But) every time we play, we are out there for him."
The victory preserves the Warriors' undefeated run through District 30-4A, improving their record to 7-0 with a big game against Victoria East looming Tuesday.
There is little doubt it will be another emotional affair - the Warriors third in a row - as both Victoria schools' fan bases descend on the stadium.
"Kids are supposed to bury their parents," Alvarado said. "Not the other way around, and we're asking a bunch of teenagers to go through something like this and then for them to come out here and play a baseball game.
"I'm just so proud of my kids right now; they've done a great job."
After playing to a 3-3 tie in the first inning, Gregory-Portland (11-11, 3-4) took a 4-3 lead into the third inning.
But in the bottom of the inning, the Warriors (13-7) earned their first lead of the game, 5-4, as Blake Staff scored from third on an error and Mikulenka hit a RBI single to send Manning home.
West added to its lead in the fourth, taking a 6-4 advantage as Seth Harrison hit a single, scoring Garret Rother, but a solo home run from Wildcats designated hitter Ty Fishbeck in the top of the fifth inning pulled Gregory-Portland back within a run, 6-5.
Once again, however, the Warriors bounced back, scoring seven times in their half of the inning, including Manning's grand slam over the left field wall.
"Ball one was a fastball, and I pretty much knew he was going to come back with another fastball because the bases were loaded, so he couldn't walk anybody," Manning said. "I was just waiting on it."