It appeared, for a minute, that Robbie Smallwood would need to come out of Thursday’s game early after being thrown out trying to scurry back to first base on a line-drive caught by Waterford right-fielder Moises Real. Smallwood dove back hard into first base for the second time in the second inning and proceeded to get up very slowly. It appeared that Turlock Christian coach Jon Valenti had an important decision to make on whether to let Smallwood head back out to the mound the next inning.
Being the competitor that Smallwood is, he didn’t leave his coach much of a choice.
Smallwood went back in to pitch in the top of the third inning and overpowered the Wildcats lineup the rest of the way, giving Turlock Christian a 6-3 victory over league rival Waterford at Pedretti Park.
Smallwood fell behind early, giving up a run in each of his first two innings, but the Eagles were able to gain momentum late in the game to ensure the win for their starter.
“I like that we came back,” Smallwood said. “They hit us first and we came right back.”
It was the rubber match in the season series between Turlock Christian and Waterford. Waterford won the first meeting 8-0 on March 18 and the Eagles came back with a 6-4 win on April 13. The victory gives the Eagles (9-2 in Southern League) a two-game cushion and a potential tiebreaker over the second-place Wildcats in the Southern League.
“This win means a lot,” said Valenti. “We’ve still got some tough games ahead of us, but this win gives us a little bit of breathing room and a little bit more control of what’s going on right now.”
The Eagles were trailing 3-1 going into the bottom of the fifth inning when Waterford coach Steve Marks went to his bullpen. Wildcat pitcher Travis Goodwin loaded the bases with one out for Turlock Christian’s Cody Alldrin. The senior first baseman belted a two-run single, knotting the game at three.
The wheels came off for Waterford in the bottom of the sixth. Two misplayed balls by Real in right field and a couple wild pitches from Goodwin resulted in three runs coming across for Turlock Christian. They went ahead 6-3 and held on in the top of the seventh for the win.
Smallwood, who struck out 11 Wildcat hitters, said he suffered a hip-pointer, comparable to a common football injury.
“All the way from my waist to my knee on my left leg is just numb right now,” he said, describing his injury, which didn’t seem to physically bother him as he completed the game, picking up his fifth victory of the season.
“I’m not really satisfied with the way I threw out there, but I’m glad we came away with the win,” Smallwood added. “We have to come out to every practice intense, work hard, learn from our mistakes and make sure we are always working on something.”
Junior third baseman Brent Abraham scored twice and added two hits, including one that plated the go-ahead run for the Eagles in the bottom of the sixth inning.
If you ask Valenti what his team needs to do to stay on top of the league standings, he will keep it as simple as one can possibly put it: “Just win.”