Baseball: Balers get another shot at Palma

San Benito High first baseman Josh Tonascia makes a nice grab in Wednesday's 4-2 win over Los Gatos.

The San Benito High baseball team had to watch league rival Palma celebrate on its home field on May 2, when the Chieftains won 4-2 to clinch at least a share of the Monterey Bay League Gabilan Division championship. Palma knocked off Salinas two days later to win the title outright, denying the Haybalers a 12th league championship in the last 13 years.
The Chieftains also won the season series, 2-1. But now the Balers get a chance for the ultimate payback—in the Central Coast Section Open Division playoffs. The No. 7 seed Balers (17-7) and No. 2 Chieftains (20-5) play a Saturday quarterfinal at Hartnell College at 11 a.m.
“We’re all going to be excited to show them that game was a fluke,” said Balers pitcher Diego Fisher, who threw 4 1/3 scoreless innings of relief in a 4-2 win over No. 10 Los Gatos in the opening round Wednesday. “We’re going to come back and beat them.”
San Benito trailed Los Gatos 2-1 until it took the lead for good with a two-run fifth inning. Davonte Butler ripped a liner to center field for a ground-rule double, Fisher was hit by a pitch and Drew Williams singled to load the bases. Matt Hill’s sacrifice-fly scored Butler, and one out later Fisher scored on a passed ball.
The Balers added an insurance run in the sixth when R.J. Clark scored on a throwing error. Clark, who came off the bench and went 3 for 3, reached on a one-out double before advancing to third base on a wild pitch. On the play, the Los Gatos catcher rifled the ball to left field.
“R.J. has been hot down the stretch,” Balers coach Billy Aviles said. “What he did today, it’s been kind of par for the course for what he’s been doing lately.”
Said Fisher: “R.J. is phenomenal. You ask him to do something, he’ll do it. It’s no surprise the way he hit the ball today, because in practice he’s hitting bombs.”
Fisher came through in a pivotal moment. Starter Tyler Triano had to exit the game with two outs in the third inning after experiencing back pain. Triano tweaked his back in the May 2 Palma game. Triano was expected to see a chiropractor after the game or Thursday.
The right-hander threw just 2 2/3 innings and 36 pitches against Los Gatos, meaning he’d still have plenty of innings and pitches left for Saturday assuming he’s healthy (pitchers can go no more than 10 innings a week). Triano was sharp in the May 2 contest against Palma, allowing no earned runs in 5 1/3 innings.
“All of our pitchers will be available Saturday because there is no tomorrow,” Aviles said.
Butler went 2 for 4, and Clark scored twice. Fisher came through in the clutch again, something he’s done all season. Now the Balers get a chance to end Palma’s season.
“They beat us and won league,” Aviles said. “But we get a chance to win the biggest game between us.”

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