‘Balers take two over rival Gilroy


For the second year in a row, Gilroy can’t seem to catch a break
when it comes to beating the one opponent it circles on the
calendar every season.

For the second year in a row, Gilroy can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to beating the one opponent it circles on the calendar every season.

Losing the front end of a two-game series with San Benito baseball in agonizing fashion Friday – Haybaler second baseman Ricky Garcia roped a walk-off double into left field for a 7-6 win after trailing much of the game – the Mustangs topped themselves Saturday in Gilroy by playing well enough to tie the game at 6-all in the bottom of the seventh and force an extra inning, only to see the game slip away in the eighth for an 11-6 defeat. The victory was the fifth in a row for San Benito over Gilroy dating back to last season.

“[Friday] was tougher for me,” GHS manager Clint Wheeler said. “[Friday] we deserved to win. [Saturday], at times, it was one of our worst performances of the year.”

As hot and cold as the Mustangs may have been, they still had plenty of chances.

Leading 3-2 entering the fifth frame Saturday, Gilroy saw its lead evaporate in a three-run sixth for San Benito. The inning featured an RBI-triple by Ramiro Chapa, followed by a successful squeeze play by Kyle Vallejo and a grounder by Trevor Fabing, which scored a run on a failed double-play attempt by the Mustangs.

Adding another run in the top of the seventh through a home run by Kyle Zozaya, who took the first pitch he saw deep over the left field wall, the ‘Balers left starter Kyle Vallejo on the mound to close out the game.

But with only three outs to go, Taylor Chris ignited a Gilroy rally in the bottom of the seventh by crushing a double deep to left-center field to score two runs. The at-bat was especially clutch considering Chris struck out in his previous three at-bats. Tyler Provost replaced Vallejo on the hill but couldn’t turn back the tide, as the Mustangs tacked on another run on a wild pitch to Lukas Fortino.

“One of the things we’ve talked about all year is teams are putting up cricket numbers in innings – three, four, five runs,” San Benito manager Michael Luna said. “It can happen. We did it [Friday’s] game.”

The ‘Balers also did so in Saturday’s game.

Facing Fortino, the fourth of five GHS pitchers on the day, San Benito loaded the bases on a Provost walk, a bunt single by Chapa and a bunt by Darin Gillies that looked like it might go foul but was fielded by newly installed catcher Brandon Elam, who replaced Fortino behind the plate.

Mark Hurley made it 7-6 on a bloop single to right field before the ‘Balers went ahead by two runs on a passed ball. Steve Cabral then hit a double to bring two runners home and Garcia hit a comebacker off Fortino to give San Benito a five-run cushion that was never in real danger.

“We’ve had so many games where we just keep rallying, make stuff happen,” Garcia said following Friday’s game.

Elam hit a double to lead off the bottom of the eighth, but Provost was able to retire the next three batters to seal the game, possibly giving San Benito a stranglehold on first place in the Tri-County Athletic League.

The ‘Balers improved to 14-3-1 overall, 9-1 in the TCAL. Meanwhile, Gilroy (8-7, 6-4) is now third in league and Palma (12-3, 9-3) slipped a step over the weekend, splitting its series with fourth-place Salinas (13-5, 6-4).

“I told them this going to be a playoff atmosphere two-game series,” Luna said. “What else could you want?”

Wheeler had a similar thought after Saturday’s game, albeit seeing things from a different side.

“If you’re not mentally geared-in to play this game, there’s something wrong,” Wheeler said.

“We’re going to have to regroup and refocus.”

Andrew Matheson contributed to this report.

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