Pitman High baseball didn't have its best outing on Monday in the opening round of playoffs against No. 7 McNair in the South bracket of the Division-I CIF Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.
Sophomore Brett Hagen started for Pitman and matched McNair's Emanuel Zaragoza for five innings. However, the ball didn't roll the Pride's way on three occasions which resulted in Pitman's three errors — the only errors for the entire game — and a win for the Eagles.
McNair took advantage of the miscues and scored three unanswered runs while Hagen was on the mound and in the end, after grabbing two quick outs in the seventh, AJ Encalade allowed the game winning run to score after hitting the batter with bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh to end it 4-3.
“We fought... we just didn't quite have it at the plate, but tip your hat to their pitcher... he did a good job and kept us swinging outside of our zone and not really putting good bats at the ball,” said Pitman coach John Acha. “We both battled, there just wasn't enough innings left.”
Zaragoza had a single strikeout in seven innings and kept Pitman's top hitters off by forcing bad swings with low strikes and a solid changeup. Zaragoza pitched well in critical situations during the game and went seven innings, allowed seven hits, three earned runs, and walked one.
Pitman and McNair had seven hits apiece but the biggest play of the game didn't even turn out to be a hit on a windy afternoon that saw the winds reach a peak of over 20 miles-per-hour.
The Pitman hitters struck out just once in 27 at-bats during the game. McNair struck out eight times but didn't commit a single error for the game.
“There was definitely a lot of ups and downs and we have the ball players to be great but it was just a lack of consistency, whether we were on or not day in and day out,” said Acha. “To be steady with the swings and pitching and everything, it's unfortunate.”
In the first inning, McNair quickly took advantage of an error and two runs later, the Eagles had gone up two runs on Hagen.
Then in the next half inning, Pitman loaded the bases and Daniel Fareria squeezed an RBI sac-bunt to make it 2-1 with two outs before going to the bottom of the second.
Hagen held McNair scoreless in the second and third but heading into the fourth, Pitman had already tied the game at 2-2 after a Nick Jones RBI single.
Romeo's error at left field in the fourth allowed a runner to get on-base in Donnie Morris, who eventually scored the go-ahead run on a miscue on defense.
“It took us some time to get things going offensively, (we had) some good timely hits and had some runners but couldn't get the one we wanted,” said Acha. “They got some runs on situations when maybe they shouldn't have where one guy wasn't looking and missed it. They snuck in some runs and that is what a good team will do and they did.”
McNair earned just one of their four runs.
Hagen went 5 innings, allowed five hits, three unearned runs, three walks and struck out seven.
Pitman was held scoreless in the next three innings heading into the seventh when the team knew they needed to string together any offense if they hoped to avoid the loss.
Omar Onate was called to pinch-hit and facing Zaragoza, he intuitively approached the at-bat and was rewarded a critical walk to lead off the inning under difficult circumstances.
Todd Jones was called to pinch-run for Onate and was then bunted over by Fareria, setting up a runner in scoring position at second and the go-ahead at the plate.
Encalade was finally at the plate after a 0 for 3 start to the game, but this time with two outs and the final at-bat or out in his hands.
Encalade attacked the pitcher and finally blasted an RBI triple to deep right center for the game tying run at 3-3.
The bottom of the seventh ended in a blur.
Bradley Enos, who went one inning, allowed two runners on for McNair to lead off the inning and Encalade was called to relieve and managed to get two quick outs.
Morris then hit a shot to Jones at third base who couldn't get down in time after reaching for a hard shot and loaded up the bases with two outs.
In a dramatic situation with bases loaded in the bottom of the final inning and two outs, Encalade hit the next batter on the ensuing pitch and in just a blink the game was called.
“We battled to tie it and in the end just didn't have enough innings,” Acha added. “I am proud of these guys because we have a good team. For these guys to come out and go out in the first round it's very disappointing and like I told the boys, hopefully the juniors and sophomores that were on this team learned something and know what they need to work on to get better for next year and progress.”
Matt Carrigg was 2 for 4 with a run scored. Encalade was 1 for 4 with an RBI. Nick Jones was 1 for 3 with an RBI. Fareria was 0 for 2 with an RBI. Ben Lascano was 1 for 3 and Joe Romeo was 1 for 2.