In a non-league game with zero playoff implications, the Wilcox Chargers baseball team learned an important lesson against Piedmont on Tuesday: no lead is safe.
With a four-run lead, Wilcox Head Coach David Currie handed the ball to his usual shortstop–freshman Paul Rosa–to try and pitch the last three outs. Currie used eight pitchers in the game despite shutting out the Pirates through the first six innings. Having two league games on tap this week, Currie didn’t want to extend any of his usual arms and wanted to get work in for his less frequently used pitchers.
Unfortunately for Wilcox, Rosa would be unable to come up with the third out of the inning before giving up a tying two-run double to center field. Nick Malvini would relieve Rosa and get the final out of the inning with the score knotted up at four.
In the bottom of the seventh, a leadoff walk and infield single set the table for Rosa to make up for his inning on the mound. The speedy freshman dropped a perfectly placed bunt up the third base line that stopped rolling exactly on the white line.
“I was trying to make it that perfect,” commented Rosa on bunting for a hit, before adding that he didn’t mind getting the bunt sign in that situation. “I like doing team plays like that, doesn’t really matter to me, as long as I get it down.”
“He’s one of our better bunters, he’s fast, we didn’t just sac bunt him, we’re bunting for a hit there,” confirmed Currie, who had no thoughts of letting Rosa swing away. “He’s good at doing that, obviously he put down a perfect bunt. Percentage wise, that is the right play because he has a good chance of getting a hit, worse case we have second and third with one out.”
After Rosa’s beauty of a bunt set up the Chargers with bases loaded and nobody out, the winning run would end up scoring in a rather ugly fashion. Junior Jarrett Chapman swung at a 3-2 pitch that likely would have been fall four and hit a chopper to shortstop. What should have been a double-play ended up being an error as the shortstop’s throw was wide and Piedmont’s catcher couldn’t hang on.
“It was really high, I should have took it to be honest,” commented Chapman on the winning run. “It all worked out though.”
Coach Currie defended Chapman’s two-strike approach though of swinging at anything close, noting the umpire’s strike zone wasn’t especially consistent on the afternoon.
“You don’t want to get punched out there, put the ball in play and good things can happen.”
Speaking of making things happen, the Chargers’ aggressiveness on the base paths were a big key in building the 4-0 lead. Not only did Wilcox steal four bases on the afternoon, but Rosa and Chapman each picked up an extra base with heads up hustle in the fifth. The rally started with two outs and nobody on when Taiga Sato beat out an infield hit to shortstop and Rosa walked. With runners at first and third, Chapman hit a groundball to third that bounced off the third baseman and into foul territory down the left field line. Rosa never broke stride around second and slid in safely to third while Chapman just beat the throw to second.
“We work a lot on base running in practice,” noted Rosa. “So we are usually pretty good.”
“Halfway down the line, I took a peak,” recalled Chapman. “I didn’t think it kicked it away that far, but my first base coach [Paul Hernandez] actually told me ‘keep going, keep going’ so I kept going and eventually got in their safe and [Alex] Adame hit me in.”
Adame smoked a line drive into left center field to knock in Rosa and Chapman the very next at bat, pushing the lead to 4-0. The following hitter Marlon Arce would pop out, so Chapman’s hustle into second base proved to be a big play in a game that ended in a one-run victory.
“We have to try [and be aggressive on the bases], we don’t have a really high slugging percentage,” noted Currie on the impressive base running. “We have to try and do whatever we can on the bases and we practice that a lot. We have decent team speed and a few instinctive-type players.”
The Chargers will take on Milpitas Wednesday and Friday in league play as they have four games remaining before the playoffs.