The bouncing ball stayed down on Dos Pueblos second baseman Joe Talarico, allowing San Marcos to take a sixth-inning lead during Wednesday’s Channel League baseball showdown.
But the sophomore infielder didn’t get down with disappointment, either.
Talarico’s infield single with two outs in the seventh inning drove in the tying and go-ahead runs as the Chargers rallied for a 4-3 victory at Joe Mueller Field.
“I was excited to be out there and have the opportunity,” he said, even when two quick strikes brought DP to within one pitch of defeat. “I had all my teammates behind me.”
The victory boosts DP (16-6, 11-3 Channel League) into a first-place tie with San Marcos (17-4, 11-3) with only Friday’s rematch at Scott O’Leary Field remaining on the regular-season schedule. Santa Barbara (13-7, 10-4) was unable to make it a three-way logjam, losing a 6-5 thriller at Lompoc on Wednesday.
“That environment is going to be loud,” San Marcos coach Wes Ghan-Gibson said of Friday’s 3:30 p.m. game at DP. “We like playing at that ballpark, so it should be fun.”
His team pounded the Chargers 20-4 in a tournament game at O’Leary Field on March 24 and 9-1 in a league contest on April 23. San Marcos also beat DP in a 2-0 conference thriller at Mueller Field on April Fool’s Day.
It was poised to turn the series into a Royal Flush on Wednesday by scoring twice in the sixth inning to snap a 1-1 tie.
“That was a baseball game right there,” Ghan-Gibson said. “I can’t say anything other than both teams competed their butts off, and unfortunately we were on the bad end of that. But that’s just baseball sometimes.”
DP started strong against San Marcos lefthander Chase Hoover. Ethan Rodriguez launched a leadoff double into the left-centerfield gap, took third on Talarico’s ground out and scored on the first of Jackson Greaney’s two hits.
But Hoover bore down after that, striking out the next two Chargers and allowing only one more hit in his six innings of work. He reached his pitch-count limit when his ninth strikeout ended DP’s sixth turn at bat.
“To him, every game is big,” Ghan-Gibson said of Hoover, a junior who has already committed to TCU. “That’s why he does so well in these games … It doesn’t matter if we’re playing the Yankees, he’s going to go compete.”
The Royals, who actually out-hit DP 12-6, tied the score in the bottom of the first when Aidan Mandel’s single scored Joaquin Sandoval. Mandel, who went 4-for-4 on the day, also drove in San Marcos’ last run in the sixth.
“He’s in the cage every day after practice, just working on his swing so he can deliver in those moments,” Ghan-Gibson said. “And he’s delivered all season. He’s a great hitter, he’s a great competitor, he’s a great teammate.”
But DP lefthander Jordan Rico pitched out of trouble for the rest of his start. San Marcos stranded two runners in each of the first four innings.
Rico got help in the fourth from Friday’s scheduled starter, sophomore ace Ryan Speshyock. He moved over from third base to pitch in the fourth after the Royals rallied with a pair of two-out singles. He promptly struck out the only batter he would face.
“We’d talked about it before the game,” Hedricks said. “Ryan knew that he was going to be called upon if the spot allowed for it … Probably just a batter or two, at most; get us out of a jam, and then go back to third.”
Starting catcher Kellan Montgomery got the win in relief, pitching the last three innings. All four of the hits he allowed were bunched together with two outs in the sixth. Nicky Fell, who went 3-for-4 in the game, took second on Henry Manfredonia’s single and scored the go-ahead run when Emmitt Speake’s bouncer up the middle snuck under Talarico’s glove.
“The hop stayed down and I wasn’t ready for it,” he said. “But all my teammates had my back and got me ready for my AB.”
Mandel’s fourth single of the game scored Manfredonia for a 3-1 lead before he got the chance.
Hedricks gathered the Chargers together before they could enter the dugout and told them, “How much sweeter would it be if we could come from behind?”
They quickly loaded the bases, using a pair of walks to sandwich Dylon Bailey’s second hit of the game. Rodriguez’s sacrifice fly to left reduced San Marcos’ deficit to 3-2.
The Royals drew to within one pitch of victory by getting two quick strikes on Talarico. He fought off the next pitch, however, with a bouncer deep into the hole between third base and shortstop.
“Joe is a kid that’s very mature for a sophomore,” Hedricks said. “He’s played a lot of baseball in his life. He’s been in big spots already as a young kid, just growing up here in Little League all-stars, and as a freshman last year.”
Bailey scored the tying run on Talarico’s infield single and Rico followed him home with the game-winner when the desperation throw skipped past San Marcos’ first baseman.
Montgomery held the lead by retiring the side in the bottom of the inning, striking out the last two Royals.
“First and foremost, I’m so proud of my team,” Hedricks said. “We know how good San Marcos has been all year. They’ve had our number at times this year … We just tried to grind ABs as best we could and get to that last inning.”
And how they’ve reached the last game with the chance for a championship.