by Dennis McCall
Taft Midway Driller
MERCED – Merced College made the most of eight hits backed up by solid pitching to earn an 8-0 victory over the Taft Cougars Tuesday in the Central Valley Conference opener for both schools.
The Cougars got six hits off Blue Devil starter Evan Estes (1-2) but couldn't get anything going. Estes struck out six batters in six innings of work. Three other Merced hurlers worked an inning each and didn't allow a hit.
Blue Devil leftfielder Dalton Beatty had a big day, going 4-for-4 with a homer and four runs batted in.
For the Cougars, designated hitter Brendan Halstrom and first baseman Robert Higgs had two hits apiece.
TC had few scoring opportunities.
The Cougars loaded the bases in the second inning on Halstrom's one-out single, a walk and a hit by Kaivon Kealoha.
Halstrom had a two-out single in the sixth and moved up on Robert Higgs' hit to right field. Both runners advanced when the Merced fielder bobbled the ball. Again, Estes got out of the jam.
Merced's bullpen allowed just two runners on a walk and hit batter over the final three innings.
The Cougars hosted Merced Thursday in the second game of the series. Check taftmidwaydriller.com for the outcome. The teams close out the series Saturday at Merced.
Next week the Cougars will host two of the three games against West Hills-Coalinga.
In other conference openers Sequoias needed 11 innings to beat West Hills 9-5 and Reedley blanked Porterville 7-0. Fresno had the conference bye and will play at Hartnell College twice.