BASEBALL: Eagles pitcher soars in Monarchs’ defeat

Immanuel Eagles’ sophomore pitcher Nolan Santillan shines as starter in 5-2 win over Exeter Monarchs

REEDLEY – The Exeter Monarchs struggled against the Immanuel Eagles during their matchup that was supposed to be at home for the Monarchs and moved to Immanuel’s fields due to the rain.

The Eagles defeated the Monarchs 5-2 at home on March 23 after their matchup was moved from Exeter to Immanuel due to recent flooding. With the win, the Eagles are the only team in the Tri-County Central Sequoia league to remain undefeated after two games. Their ace in the hole is sophomore pitcher Nolan Santillan, who presented a tough challenge for the Monarchs.

“We knew this was gonna be a tough game,” Immanuel head coach Steve Ramirez said. “So obviously I threw my starter at Exeter because every year we go toe to toe.”

Both pitchers brought their best game to the mound. Santillan started the game off with three outs in three batters, two strikeouts and one thrown out at first. For Exeter, junior Miles Munger got three outs in four batters, allowing only one hit in the first inning. But while Santillan stayed fairly consistent, Munger began to falter in the fourth inning.

“In the fourth inning, that’s kind of when pitchers tire out a little bit,” Ramirez said. “You’re just seeing that lineup for maybe the third time.”

Santillian struck out three Monarch batters in a row at the top of the third inning. Then, in the bottom, Trevor Piek hit a double, allowing Eli Garay to run in and score the first run of the game. Then in the fourth, the Eagles managed three more runs thanks to some key walks and fielding errors by the Monarchs.

But the Monarchs got on the board in the fourth inning too. Junior Gunnar Lentz, the Monarchs’ catcher, hit a single, but twisted his ankle on his way to first base. He was able to walk it off and ended up making his way around the bases to score the Monarch’s first run. Then later in the sixth, he scored the second run for Exeter as well.

“[Lentz] is a fiery guy, he’s emotional,” Exeter head coach Kevin Kirkman said. “His average isn’t extremely high but he’s been getting on base a lot. He can make things happen. He can steal a base. He can bunt. He’s different.”

As a catcher, Lentz works closest with Munger on the mound. When Munger was reeling, Lentz reined him in. If Munger needed time, Lentz called for a time out. Lentz seems to be able to read the field, the batter, his pitcher and determine what needs to happen next for the Monarchs to get the outs they need.

Unfortunately, the Monarchs just weren’t hitting against the Eagles. Santillan was a tough pitcher to face and the Monarchs have been in a slump. With the rain, they’ve only played nine games this season and the fields have often been too wet to practice. They should have played a lot more non-league games before reaching this point in the season.

The game against Immanuel should have been at home for them, but due to flooding, they ended up playing an away game that featured hecklers standing just outside of right field until they were removed. But all the teams are facing the same stormy obstacles this season. Though, in the tough competition of the Tri-County Sequoia league, a few bad games can cost a team the season.

“We gotta get some guys hitting,” Kirkman said. “We’ve got five, six guys not hitting at the moment and they gotta figure it out. It’s been tough.”

The Monarchs will travel to Selma to face their next opponent on March 28, hoping to bring home their first league win. In contrast, as the only team still undefeated in league play, the Eagles are facing the Sierra Pacific Golden Bears on March 24.

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