Starting pitcher Tyler Gray didn’t quite go the distance for the Firebirds on Saturday, but the southpaw appeared in all seven innings on the mound. The Fremont freshman departed after retiring the first batter of the seventh inning on a called third strike. With Santa Clara’s leadoff hitter Orlando Lewis up next, Fremont Head Coach Brett Bashinger elected to pull his young pitcher. Lewis had homered off Gray earlier in the game, one of just the two runs Gray allowed on the afternoon, the only one of which that was an earned run.
Makaio Mullins took the ball and quickly secured the 3-2 victory for the Firebirds by striking out Lewis and coaxing a groundout by Sean Rescate to second base. Had either one reached base, Bruins three hitter Jayce Dobie would have had a chance to hit. The Bruins first baseman had two clear singles plus a hard, line drive to shortstop in his third at bat. Mullins, though, did the job without having to face the heart of the order, securing the win after Gray’s fantastic start.
“I knew [Santa Clara] could hit fast pitching pretty well, so we figured we would throw Tyler out there because has good offspeed,” remarked Bashinger after the game. “He’s done a really good job up here for a freshman. He’s made his adjustments nicely.”
Conversely, the Bruins were disappointed by their lack of ability to adjust to facing a lower velocity pitcher.
“We made a couple of adjustments, but it clearly wasn’t enough,” acknowledged Bruins catcher Jackson Moody. “At least for me and a lot of other guys, it seemed like we just wanted to tee off on that guy. It’s not what we’re used to seeing, but we have to make those adjustments. We have to change the mindset and how we approach those at bats.”
While the Bruins certainly could have made better adjustments, credit has to go to Gray for executing his pitches against a senior-heavy, upper-division team like the Bruins.
“I was really motivated to pitch against a good team. I knew I had to get pumped before the game,” chimed the freshman. “All I was trying to do was hit my spots, throw strikes. My curveball and my sidearm fastball were both working really well.”
Gray’s repertoire did the job beautifully for six and one-thirds innings before Mullins took over, earning the save in a game where he also picked up the game-winning RBI. In the bottom of the sixth Mullins scorched a line drive double down the left field line that actually knocked home Gray who had earned a walk earlier in the inning.
“He was out in front on the first pitch, but then he made a great adjustment on the second pitch, sat back and hit a line drive,” praised Bashinger on Mullins clutch at bat. “That was a huge hit for us, we needed a hit like that because we have had a lot of trouble scoring lately.
The victory for the Firebirds over a higher division team could be a big confidence boost heading into the second half of the league season. Fremont is now 8-10 overall and remains 3-5 in league play. Santa Clara on the other hand falls to 13-8 overall with an identical 3-5 league record.