The sun was hot and the stakes were high on Thursday in a must win game for Pitman High. Just two days after suffering a one run loss to Merced High, Pitman’s baseball team turned the tables on the Bears (7-3 CCC), beating them 15-9. Merced was tied with Buhach Colony High for first place in the Central California Conference prior to its loss to the Pride (5-5 CCC) and now sits in second place, two games ahead of both Pitman and Turlock High.
“It’s a big win, it keeps us in the race,” Pitman’s head coach Mick Tate said. “We’re not thinking championship right now, we’re thinking about making the playoffs.”
Although Thursday’s win was big it was not pretty. Pitman, who has been without its ace Tyler Arnsberg due to injury, struggled early and often from the hill against Merced. The Pride went through four pitchers during the game, hitting three Bears batters and walking eight. Pitman’s offense offset its defensive woes with key performances from A.J. Derr (4 RBIs), Brennan Hauser (3 RBIs), and Grayson Kennedy (3 RBIs).
“When you score 15 runs usually you have a good chance to win,” Tate said.
By the top of the fourth inning Pitman led Merced 6-2 but the Bears rallied with a four-run inning to tie the game, taking advantage of Pitman’s problems with ball control. The Pride turned out three runs in the bottom of the fourth to once again retake the lead and turned to their third pitcher of the day, left handed Sage Padilla, to take over for Kennedy in the fifth. Padilla didn’t fare much better against Merced, however, giving up three runs and prompting the fourth and final pitching change.
“We took the best road we could,” Tate said.
Pitman’s road involved taking Derr from behind the plate and putting him on the mound for only the second time this season. Much like he did with the bat, Derr delivered when his team needed him to with his pitches; keeping the Bears off the scoreboard. Pitman’s ability to stop Merced’s offense in the sixth inning led to a six run sixth inning for Pitman which was spurred by a Kennedy double with the bases loaded.
Pitman must now sort out its pitching game as it prepares for the final stretch of the season. The Pride will likely turn to their de facto leader, Derr, as they continue to chase their playoff dreams.
“Who knows what’s going to happen,” Tate said. “We’re just taking it one game at a time.”
Pitman plays Enochs High today before its Tuesday afternoon league matchup with Golden Valley High.