Eagle Pass, Texas, employs the smallest roster in the 13-15 Babe Ruth World Series, so head coach Eduardo Sepulveda demands a lot from his players. He expects all 11 of them to be versatile and aggressive.
The Eagles displayed those two attributes brilliantly on Thursday en route to an 8-5 victory over Russell County, Ky., in their first Series game at Municipal Ballpark.
"Eagle Pass is just so small they all have to learn to play other positions. ... The whole team can pitch, except for the catcher. ... Even the outfielders can play the infield," Sepulveda said.
Catcher Jorge Saucedo, shortstop Izek Garza, second baseman Kali Salinas and center fielder Manuel Melchor were the only players who didn't change positions against Russell County.
Right-hander Eduardo Sepulveda started on the mound for Eagle Pass and pitched five and two-thirds strong innings, striking out seven and walking one. He left with a pitch count of 73, 51 of them strikes. Then the Eagles turned to bullpen by committee.
Coach Sepulveda employed three pitchers to get the final four outs. Roger Menchaca retired one man, Aaron Trevizo got no outs and Alan Jimenez closed for the final three outs.
Ho-hum, just another day at the ballpark, according to coach Sepulveda.
"The (multiple-pitcher) strategy we had today we've used throughout the state and regional tournaments," he observed. "... It's a headache moving people around, but it's similar to playing chess, I guess."
On the bases, the Eagles stole five bases in six attempts, a tactic that contributed to two runs.
"That's us," he said of his team's inclination to run.
Coach Sepulveda believes such larceny is a high art, and productive as well. Eagle Pass has reached double figures in steals in at least one game this season.
Four of the Eagles' thefts came in the bottom of the first inning as they built a 4-0 lead. Garza started the rally with a one-out infield hit and scored on an RBI triple by Jarod Romero. Melchoir concluded the uprising with a two-run single.
Menchaca socked a towering two-run home run to left field as Eagle Pass opened an 8-1 lead with a three-run fifth. His blast, on a 1-and-1 fastball from Russell County reliever Maxon Gosser, hit the top of the wall near the 340-foot sign and bounced over.
"We can hit the ball most of the time, but this is the first time we've hit it out," coach Sepulveda said. "When I saw that, I said 'I couldn't wait for this to happen.'"
Russell County came to life in the top of the seventh, sending eight men to the plate and scoring four runs. Three Eagle Pass pitchers marched to the mound to short-circuit the Laker comeback, which gained life from two Eagle errors.
Eagle Pass was charged with three errors, Russell County four.
Coach Sepulveda said his team's defensive shortcomings were atypical.
"The (first-game) jitters were getting to the boys," he said.
Starting with a victory is definitely a plus in pool play, according to coach Sepulveda.
"It's very important. That's why I made the changes I did. I just couldn't let it go," he said.
Both teams return to action today. Eagle Pass takes on Columbia Basin, Wash., at 1 p.m. Russell County meets MLB China at 8 p.m. MLB China lost its first game to Bismarck, 11-2.