Francisco Rodriguez made his first start of the year Thursday and struck out six of the nine Salem Academy batters he faced.


Francisco Rodriguez will most certainly be telling his future grandchildren about the time he threw a perfect game.

When they ask for details, he may conveniently forget them, but at least he won't be lying.

Rodriguez, a Tucson High School junior, faced the minimum in a 16-0 win over Salem Academy (Ore.) on Thursday during pool play of the Chris Moon Classic at Cherry Field.

The game was shortened by mercy rule to just three innings, but for those three frames, Rodriguez - an everyday infielder making his first start of the year from the mound - was stellar. He retired all nine batters he faced, six via strikeout.

"I've been working with him in the bullpen, and he keeps pushing me to let him pitch," Badgers assistant coach Gilbert De La Vara said. "He proved to me that he can throw strikes, so I said, you know what, now is a good time in this tournament."

Tucson (6-2 in the regular season and ranked No. 10 in the state) improved to 2-0 in tourney pool play, clinching a spot in the winners bracket. Bracket play begins today and will continue Saturday, with the championship game slotted for Saturday at 5 p.m.

It was fitting that Rodriguez pitched his first game of the year Thursday, a day when Tucson started seven second-tier players. The Badgers varsity roster is 23 names long and De La Vara, filling in for head coach Oscar Romero (family emergency) decided to give some backups a shot.

"Our backup guys can start at any high school in the state, let me tell you," De La Vara said. "It's a tough decision for me and Oscar to make the lineup. Every day, we're sitting here like 'what do we do with this guy or that guy?'"

The second team responded with a 15-run third inning in which the Badgers went through the batting order twice, and three players batted three times.

Junior outfielder Ryan Norrix, who had just two at-bats all season before the Chris Moon tournament, was 2 for 3 with a triple, a single and two RBIs.

"I think the coaches have a lot of confidence in the second-tier guys," Norrix said. "Getting some game-time at-bats in really helps to build our confidence."

De La Vara said having such a large roster helps tremendously in practice, as well.

"We have enough guys to fill two teams," he said. "They pretty much battle between each other for a position, which is a good thing. Most teams out here only carry 15 or 16, and so they just run normal practices and judge players off of ground balls.

"We, on the other hand, get to see live pitching. We have about eight or nine quality pitchers."

De La Vara, a Flowing Wells graduate in 2003, has spent the last 7 1/2 years in the minor leagues in the Royals, Astros, Tigers and Reds organizations. Using his knowledge and experience, he charts each of his pitchers in the bullpen. He's a self-proclaimed "big numbers guy."

"If guys are putting up numbers, they're going to continue playing."

In fact, De La Vara has seen so many great numbers that he has decided to continue playing. He made the decision in 2011 to end his career, but after spending this year with the Badgers, he has decided to give it one more shot.

He ships off for an independent league stint in Connecticut next month with hopes of being signed by the New York Mets.

"Being around all this, I'm not ready to hang it up," De La Vara said. "You can't just make the decision to quit baseball. You'll know when your time's up, I guess."