Haybalers win in dramatic fashion

Balers pitcher Amanda Moisa allowed just one run against Santa Clara.

Three outs from seeing their season—and their high school careers—end, Madison Greco and Noel Chavarria weren’t about to go down without producing their best at-bats in Wednesday’s Central Coast Section Division I playoff opener against host Santa Clara. Having mustered all of one hit entering the seventh, San Benito High was in danger of exiting the postseason with a whimper.

Instead, Greco and Chavarria powered—literally—the Haybalers with back-to-back home runs in a 2-1 victory. The No. 15 seed Balers (15-13) face a familiar foe in Saturday’s noon quarterfinal at the Salinas Sports Complex in No. 10 Christopher (14-9). Greco led off the seventh and drilled the first pitch she saw from Bruins starter Kathryn Caravalho well beyond the fence in left field. One batter later, Chavarria smacked a shot that landed almost in the identical place where Greco’s ball landed.

Both standout seniors, Greco and Chavarria made a crucial hitting adjustment against Caravalho—and not a moment too soon. The crucial adjustment? Standing at the front edge of the box rather than the back.

“It was easier to lay off the rise ball as they were up in the box,” Balers coach Andrew Barragan said. “It was frustrating because before the seventh we hit two balls on the ground, and everything else was in the air. But they looked for a mistake pitch and sure enough they got it.”

Greco’s moon shot was her team-high fifth home run of the season, and Chavarria’s towering home run came on a riseball—only this time it was flat. The pitch had downright baffled the Balers for six innings until they got disciplined in the seventh.

“The riseball breaks really late, so everyone is swinging right as it breaks,” Chavarria said. “It’s not a great way to make solid contact.”

San Benito’s senior outfielder knew along with her teammates that it was now or never, and they produced with their season on the line. At no point did Chavarria feel she was going to produce the game-winning home run, but it’s not a surprise considering Chavarria has displayed power over the last couple of years.

“We all tried to keep our composure, and once Madi hit that over, everyone kind of relaxed a little more because we had that security run,” Chavarria said. “And then I didn’t think I was going to do anything special. I was trying to stay off the rise, but she threw some there in the seventh and they were kind of flat. So I was thinking maybe I should get something up in air and elevate it.”

And that’s exactly what Chavarria—who had a team-best two hits—did, sending a soaring shot down the left-field line.

“It’s definitely the farthest ball I’ve hit all season,” she said. “Coming into that inning, the first thing we said when we got into our huddle is we have to do this for our seniors. I don’t think anyone wanted the season to end.”

Moisa certainly pitched as if everything was at stake, allowing just four hits, three to the Bruins’ No. 6 hitter, Rocky Blassingale. Changing speeds and mixing pitches beautifully, Moisa crafted a gem.

“We’ve talked about Amanda getting stronger as the game goes on, and we’re not talking about velocity, but being a bit more pinpoint accurate with her pitches,” Barragan said. “Her accuracy and command were there all day, and she did a hell of a job of keeping them off-balance.”

Kaia Dickens, a freshman second baseman, made a nice play to end the game, snagging a shallow popup before taking a couple of steps and touching first base for a double play.