The “Comeback Kids” of Briarwood Little League almost did it again on Saturday. Unfortunately for Pirates fans, their squad came up one run short in their latest comeback attempt, losing 4-3 in the Tournament of Champions semifinal.
Taking on the Sunnyvale Indians, the Pirates once again dug themselves a hole early. The Indians scored twice in the top of the first inning. Briarwood would respond immediately though to tie the game in the bottom. Mateo Escobedo drew a one-out walk. Two batters later Andrew Traffas singled between first and second. Two wild pitches later, Escobedo had crossed home plate with Nathaniel Sanchez at the dish. Sanchez would then drive home Traffas with a two-out single up the middle to tie things up at two.
In the second inning the Indians would tack on two more runs. At that point Pirates’ ace Toby Esqueda came in to pitch with the bases loaded and nobody out. The ace then did what aces do, as he struck out the first three batters he faced, to keep the deficit at just 4-2. Esqueda ended up going five innings, racking up 10 strikeouts without allowing a run.
“He was just a beast out there, as he has been all season long,” said Pirates’ Skipper Carlos Escobedo. “He came out and this was probably the best he’s thrown all season long. He came out here and just shut them down. He gave us a fighting chance at the end.”
Shortly after Esqueda took over on the mound, the Indians brought in their hard-throwing ace as well. That’s when the Pirates bats went cold for the middle innings. However, as usual, the team from Briarwood had one more late-inning rally left in them.
Still down two runs, Esqueda led off the bottom of the sixth inning by launching an opposite-field home run to right-center.
“It was an outside pitch and I knew I could take it that way,” remarked Esqueda on his home run. “I just tried to put the barrel on it and it went oppo.”
The homer was still off the Indians ace pitcher, as Esqueda admitted he likes hitting off the harder throwing pitchers.
“If you hit it, it goes farther,” smiled Esqueda. “If it’s a regular, slower pitcher, it won’t go as far.”
Even with the big home run, the Pirates still needed one more run to stay alive. Sometimes in the baseball, home runs in the last inning, which don’t tie or give a team the lead, are referred to as “rally killers,” but this time the home run ignited the rally.
Traffas immediately followed up the home run with a sharp line drive single to right field. Sanchez then battled tough by fouling off a bunch of close pitches before eventually working a walk and setting the Pirates up with runners at first and second with still nobody out.
At this point, one might have expected a sacrifice bunt, but it never came. The following batter struck out swinging without attempting to bunt. Coach Escobedo suggested after the game that there was at least one missed bunt sign in that situation.
The runners would eventually move up to second and third on a ground out to first base, but now there were two outs. With the tying run, 60-feet away, the Indians were able to get the third and final out via a strikeout to end the game.
The Pirates’ season is now over, but both Briarwood and Westside’s All Star teams will begin play this week.