Second seed Turlock Christian baseball opened up the CIF Sac Joaquin Section Division VII playoffs Wednesday with a defensively-led victory over seventh seed Forest Hill. Timely hits and another stellar pitching performance by Gavin Farinha secured the victory for the Eagles.
Getting on the board early has been vital for the Eagles this year, and that’s exactly what they did. Julian Espinoza and Rob York got on base in the first inning to get runners into scoring position. Matt Leonesio came on with one out, and while battling a sore hamstring, hit one into center field for a two RBI single.
“In the few contests we lost this year when the top of the order didn't produce right away, it became a long game,” said head coach Bill York. “He’s (Leonesio) has been our leadoff batter all year and we moved him around because he’s a little sore in the leg. That was a huge hit and he’s driven the baseball for me for four years. It was clutch and that’s great to see from a senior who’s played for me for four years.”
The next run for the Eagles came in the third inning off of an RBI single by Espinoza. Farinha kept completing the strikeouts, and kept the pressure on Forest Hill. The fifth inning saw RBIs by Espinoza and Farinha to extend the Eagles’ lead going into the last few innings.
Forest Hill kept fighting though, and after an infield single and some stolen bases in the sixth inning, they scored their first run. The run was unearned, however, so Farinha kept his perfect ERA intact. Farinha took care of business in the top of the seventh and the Eagles walked away with the 5-1 victory.
Farinha pitched a complete game with one hit, two walks and 20 strikeouts. One of the key bats of the game was Espinoza who went 3-3 with two RBIs. The Eagles also had a combined six stolen bases.
“We got the three things we need: pitching, timely hitting and defense,” said York. “When you strike out 20 batters, it helps the defense out. This is the recipe we need.”
TC turns its attention to sixth seeded Vacaville Christian now on Monday at 6 p.m. The semifinal game will take place at Pedretti Park in Turlock and the Eagles are looking forward to the home field advantage they earned.
“We’re not going to change our strategy,” said York. “I know we’re going to face a pretty good opponent next round. We’re not going to look past those guys like we didn’t look past these guys.”