Friday afternoon’s tilt between the Wilcox Chargers and Homestead Mustangs was all about quickness. The Chargers ended up 4-3 walk-off winners in an eight-inning game that lasted less than two hours. Wilcox base stealers led the way, going six-for-seven on steals. The only Wilcox runner to get caught stealing was eventual walk-off hero Paul Rosa who could have easily been called safe sliding into second base in the fourth. In the bottom of the eighth though it was Rosa, the Chargers’ freshman shortstop, who knocked home sophomore Asahi Sato after Sato led the inning off with an impressive opposite-field, line-drive double.
“What I liked about Asahi’s double is that we’ve been working with him a lot in practice, because [opponents] try to get him out away a lot,” commented Chargers Head Coach David Currie. “[We’ve told him] to just go with that outside pitch and today he drove it to left.”
Asahi’s older brother Taiga Sato pitched all eight innings in this one, mixing his pitches well, keeping the Homestead hitters off balance. Outside of a sacrifice fly, Homestead’s only other two runs scored on Taiga’s throwing error on a bunt up the first base line.
“Taiga was outstanding, couldn’t ask for a better pitcher,” commented Chargers catcher Jairus Baddo. “He was spot on with his pitches, located well, he did a phenomenal job.”
Both members of the Chargers battery were big contributors on the bases. Baddo stole second and then scurried over to third on a pitch in the dirt before later scoring the first run of the game in the second. Taiga meanwhile stole second base three times, in the first, third and fifth innings after reaching base on a bunt single and two infield hits to the five-and-a-half hole.
“We came into the game knowing their starting catcher was pitching,” remarked Baddo on the parade of steals. “We took advantage of their secondary catcher and stole some bases.”
“That’s one of the things we like to try to do,” noted Currie on the running game. “Take extra 90 feet whenever we can. Their catcher from the other day was their pitcher, so once we saw that we decided to be a little more aggressive.”
Center fielder David Hernandez and senior outfielder Kevin Downey also stole bases for Wilcox. Hernandez would come around to score to tie the game at 3-3 after he stole second in the bottom of the seventh. Homestead had been in the lead since the third inning when they scored all of their runs. An RBI groundout by who else but Taiga Sato knocked in Hernandez to tie the game.
While the running game was a major factor all day long for the Chargers, their infield defense was just as prominent. Rosa made a leaping grab at shortstop in the fourth, while senior third baseman Alexis Ramirez made a diving stop on a ground ball in the fifth and sophomore first baseman Alex Adame smothered a tough ball to his right to end the seventh.
“They did a phenomenal job,” chimed Baddo on his infielders. “We stuck together as a team, talked together as a team, came back as a team, fought for each other. We knew we needed to win this game and our defense was clutch today.”
“We played pretty good defense behind [Sato],” added Currie. “We made some nice plays, we had the one botched bunt defense that kind of killed us, but other than that we played pretty good defense. [Ramirez] is good laterally like that. That’s at least his third or fourth one this year where he’s dove to his left and come up and made the play. Really good quickness left and right.”
The walk-off win snaps a four-game losing skid for the Chargers, who improve to 1-3 in league play and 4-6 overall. Wilcox has games against Lynbrook, Los Altos and Gunderson on tap over the next few days.