Balers win MBL Gabilan opener

Balers starter Ryan Jameson pitched six shutout innings Tuesday. Photo by Robert Eliason.

Despite returning only a couple of starters off last year’s squad, the San Benito High baseball team can never be counted out to win a league championship and make a deep run in the playoffs. True, outside of Ryan Jameson and Mason Marquez, San Benito lacks the star power the program has been accustomed to every season.

But that only means it’s time for the next generation of Balers to make a name for themselves this season. Tuesday, a handful of players did just that in a 2-0, eight-inning win over host Christopher in the Monterey Bay League Gabilan Division opener for both teams. Jacob Walter drove in the only two runs of the game with two outs in the top of the eighth.

Had Walter not delivered in the clutch, the teams might still be playing, as pitchers from both teams had their way. Walter finished with two hits, and he also made two tremendous plays at first base, including one in which he did the splits to dig up a low throw to record a groundball out.

“I expect Jacob to have quality at-bats in key situations, and that’s exactly what he did today,” Balers coach Billy Aviles said. “Maybe he doesn’t have the power to hit it out of the park any time, but he’s good enough to hit it in the gaps. We’ll take that.”

Aviles was pleased with how the team won a nail-biting game where hits were at a premium. The Balers had six hits and the Cougars finished with just two, as Jameson and Christopher starter Jonathan Newman were flat-out dominant. Jameson allowed just one hit and struck out four over six innings, while Newman had nine strikeouts and yielded just three hits—two on infield singles—over seven innings.

“Jameson was great for us and Newman was very good as well,” Aviles said. “You tip your hat to both of them. We faced Newman two times last season, so we knew what we were up against.”

Marquez, a senior shortstop who will play at San Jose State, time and again made terrific plays defensively. Whether it was going to his left to scoop up slow rollers and choppers or going to his right and backhanding a ball in the hole and having the balance and strength to throw a runner out at first, Marquez was dynamite.

On two occasions, Marquez’s defensive prowess prevented Christopher from advancing a baserunner or building up an offensive threat. Right fielder Matt Campo also produced some fine glovework, as he made a spectacular diving catch for the second out in the bottom of the eighth inning that pretty much shut the door on Christopher’s attempt on avoiding the shutout.

“As long as we play defense, we’re going to be fine,” Aviles said.

Although San Benito committed three errors, none of them proved costly. In the decisive eighth inning, Zach Livingston reached on a double with one out before Brady Miguel was intentionally walked. One out later, Marquez singled to load the bases. Walter then came through with a two-run single.

Like Walter, Livingston had two hits, tops among all players. The Balers have played three games entering the second of a back-to-back with Christopher on Thursday, and he’s batted in three different spots: the 2, 8 and 9 hole.

“Zach is pretty versatile and a good situational hitter as well,” Aviles said.

Aviles is also high on Miguel, who hit in the leadoff spot Tuesday.

“Brady swings a solid bat,” he said. “He did some good work in the off-season, so you tip your hat to him because he’s come a long way.”

If the Balers are to win another league championship—something they’ve done in 13 of the last 16 years—they’ll need solid pitching after Jameson, who has signed to play at Cal Poly. Platero pitched well last year and showed good stuff once again Tuesday, pitching two scoreless innings of relief.

Aviles said the team is also looking at Campo, Jordan Yeager and Moises Salazar as players who have the potential to pitch effectively.

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