It's nice to have depth, and it's nice to go deep.
Jake Woods pitched a strong relief performance, Drew Healy hit a walk-off home run to enact the mercy rule and the Flagstaff Eagles opened their season with a 15-3 home victory in five innings against the Bradshaw Mountain Bears on Tuesday.
Healy, who moved from third base to shortstop for his senior season, drilled a two-run blast past the right-field fence, where a few other hitters flirted with homers but could only manage doubles. The senior went 2 for 3 with a walk and a single to go with the two-out shot.
"I was just trying to put the ball in play, try to put it to the right side like a line drive, left it a little up, was having fun with it and good things happened," said Healy, who also made an over-the-shoulder catch in no-man's land on a blooper that was traveling toward the third-base line in the fourth inning.
Also playing its Grand Canyon Region opener, Flagstaff jumped on Bradshaw, scoring seven runs in the opening frame. Taking advantage of mistakes, the Eagles sent 11 batters to the plate in the first inning and drew three walks to keep the bases loaded while the Bears committed four errors.
Kaleb Hintz had an RBI single in the first inning, and three Flagstaff runs came through on a blooper off Rylan DoBosh's bat that fell just inside the first-base line to make it 6-0.
Woods took over the mound in the top of the third with no outs and the bases loaded. The first batter he faced connected for an RBI single off him, but the lefty established a fastball and a curve quickly after to strike out the next two in Bradshaw's lineup and then induced a fly ball to leave the bags full and the inning at 7-3.
"We are deep enough to throw another senior in there who can get it done," said Eagles manager Mike DoBosh. "Kudos to Jake, he's a great kid, he's a battler and whatever we ask of him, he does. So that's a big-time performance for him."
Bradshaw, which left six runners in scoring position, saw a two-game win streak come to an end as its starting pitcher struggled to find the strike zone. With the score at 3-0 after the Hintz RBI, the Bears made their first pitching change.
Hintz, who was 2 for 3, continued to chase pitchers off the mound. In the bottom of the fifth, he doubled in a run, hitting the right-field fence to make it 10-3 and forcing Bradshaw to go to another arm. The Bears' third hurler was not the charm, as he walked the first batter he faced, saw the next hitter reach on a catcher's interference call and then gave up an RBI single to Eagles leadoff hitter Shane Kuzmin, who made it 11-3 as another run scored during the play on an error.
"It's always good to play with a lead, and it's a credit to our guys to take advantage of that," Mike DoBosh said.
Kuzmin reached twice on errors, and had another RBI come in while grounding out. Jimmy Guinan, the Eagles starting pitcher, went 1 for 2 with a single and a walk. Up and down the order, in fact, Flagstaff did damage.
Guinan sat down the side to start the game but slowly lost control of his fastball. Bradshaw loaded the bases against Guinan in the second inning courtesy of a double and back-to-back walks, but managed to score just one earned run on a groundout.
Guinan never fully recovered after giving up the double. The Bears loaded the bags again on Guinan and a wild pitch made it 7-2 before the starter came out.
Woods notched an RBI single in the bottom of the third to add to his cause and make up for the run he gave up in the top half, pushing it to 8-3 in favor of the Eagles. Flagstaff went ahead 9-3 with Kuzmin at the plate with a run coming in from third as he grounded out, and the Eagles were doubled up on the inning-ending play.
"I was proud of the guys, the way they played and the way they were swinging it at the plate," the Eagles skipper said. "We got to build on it, there were a few things to fix here and there, but it's a long season and we got some time to fix those things."
The two-game region series heads to Prescott Valley on Thursday, when the Eagles take on the Bears at 3:45 p.m.