For the first time in 13 years, San Benito High won’t have either its baseball or softball teams—or both—playing on the Memorial Day weekend. Both squads suffered surprising losses last Saturday in the Central Coast Section Open Division quarterfinals. The baseball team lost 8-6 to Palma at Hartnell College, while the softball team dropped a 7-5 decision to Santa Teresa at the Salinas Sports Complex. It was a tough way to end the season for the teams, as both won the Monterey Bay League Gabilan Division championship.
However, in the one-and-done nature of the playoffs, mistakes end up being fatal. And both teams finished with plenty of mistakes Saturday.
“You’re not going to win too many games leaving 11 runners on base like we did,” San Benito softball coach Andrew Barragan said. “We had a great season and a great run, but unfortunately it’s welcome to the Open Division.”
The No. 2 seed Haybalers (23-5) never led, falling behind No. 7 seed Santa Teresa 2-0 in the top of the first inning. The Saints (18-10), who earned a share of the Blossom Valley League’s Mount Hamilton Division championship, scored two more times in the third before San Benito got on the board in the bottom half of the inning on Noel Chavarria’s two-run home run.
An inning later, Amber Rodriguez ripped a two-run single down the left-field line, making it 4-4. At this point, it seemed as if San Benito had regained the momentum, and it was only a matter of time before it would take control. It never happened. Santa Teresa scored two runs in the sixth and another in the seventh to eliminate San Benito, which went a perfect 12-0 in MBL Gabilan Division play this season.
Balers pitcher Amanda Moisa allowed a season-high 13 hits to the Saints, who made all the necessary adjustments in prevailing. San Benito finished with seven hits, but felt it should’ve scored more against Saints starter Cacy Williams. The right-hander kept the Balers off-balance, changing speeds nicely and working the corners of the plate with precision.
“We weren’t able to make the adjustments at the plate and they were,” Barragan said. “They have a great (defensive) third baseman (Taylor Siri), and they pitched to their strength. They worked the inside corner, and she made four or five stellar plays. Those could’ve been game-changers. … We talked about Amanda having an off game, and we had to rally around that. She’s not going to have her dominating stuff all the time.”
The baseball team’s defeat was even more shocking, given the circumstances. San Benito led 6-0 after four innings before its quest for a section championship came crashing down with a thud. The No. 6 seed Chieftains (23-5) rallied for five runs in the fifth and three more in the sixth to account for the final margin.
The Balers picked a bad time to get sloppy in the field, as four errors led to five runs. Give credit to the Palma hitters: They worked the count and produced solid at-bats in the latter stages of the game. Balers starter Davonte Butler had a no-hitter through four innings before things started to unravel. Two errors in the inning led to four runs, and the fielding miscues seemed to have a negative effect on the team’s hitting.
San Benito mustered only one hit in the final three innings against a couple of Palma relievers who they’ve had success against during the regular season. When it comes to the San Benito-Palma rivalry, it’s never been better. A year ago, Palma won two of the three league contests, clinching the title in Hollister.
But San Benito got payback by eliminating Palma in the CCS playoffs. This season, the Balers won two of the three league games, including a title-clinching victory on Palma’s home field. However, the Chieftains—like the Balers a year before them—got the last laugh in the postseason. Everything was going well for the Balers in the early going, as they scored two runs in the second and three more in the third off singles from Zack Livingston and Ryan Quinby.
A Josh Harris sacrifice-fly scored Butler to give the Balers a 6-0 lead after four complete. It was a gut-wrenching loss for San Benito, which was the top remaining seed after No. 1 Palo Alto and No. 2 Carlmont went down in the opening round. In other words, one could’ve said the Balers were the odds-on favorite to win their first-ever section title.
“This team bonded very well,” Balers coach Billy Aviles said. “They were a very tight-knit group, which makes this game even harder to lose. This was a very special group to me. It’s hard saying goodbye to the seniors, guys that have been on the varsity three years and some of them four years.”
There’s a silver lining for the baseball and softball teams, of course. They reload every year, and 2018 will be no different. Expect both teams to be in contention once again to win a CCS championship.