Freshman Nicholas Bonniksen pitched a four-hitter and struck out seven and Justin Dillon drove in two runs as host El Dorado opened the Sierra Valley Conference schedule with a 5-1 intra-county victory over Union Mine Tuesday.
Bonniksen’s senior-like performance included first-pitch strikes, command of the strike zone and few hard hit balls — the exception R.J. Blake’s double to the right field fence in the fifth inning. The D’backs one run came via two infield hits — the second that glanced under Bonniksen’s glove to grant Sam Armanino an RBI.
“Great composure, was ahead of the batters and 76 pitches in seven innings … forget the fact he’s a freshman — that’s a great game for anyone no matter the grade,” Cougar coach Rusty McDonald said of Bonniksen’s performance.
McDonald’s one request of Bonniksen … no free passes.
“Coach (McDonald) told me before the game, ‘no walks and we win’ and I just tried to roll ground balls,” Bonniksen said. “My mindset was to go out and win the game.”
Bonniksen’s counterpart, Union Mine lefty Charles Simpson, pitched well but three of the first four El Dorado runners to cross the plate were aboard via walks. Reliever Carlos Romero was victimized by an unearned run in his two innings on the mound.
” We have just one pitcher with varsity experience so it’s a learning process,” D’back coach Brett Robinson said. “As the game progressed, Charles gained confidence and was ahead in the count while Carlos came in and threw strikes.”
Dillon and Chris Swineford (2-for-4) drove in Zach Culp and Zach Brown with first-inning runs while Dillon’s double to score Brown and Nik Rowen’s sacrifice fly that plated Dillon produced another two in the third.
Union Mine cut its deficit to 2-1 with a run in the third. Bonniksen retired the first two D’backs before Dan Davis beat on a bouncer down the third base line and went to second on the low throw to first base. Davis was wild-pitched to third and came in when Armanino’s bouncer toward the middle went under Bonniksen’s scoop attempt.
“Offensively we’re getting better each game,” Armanino said. “We’ve been rained out, haven’t been on the field and have had minimum hitting.”