The Merced College baseball team was in need of something positive.
The Blue Devils wanted to leave Tuesday’s six-error implosion in their rear-view mirror and get a good result at home against Porterville on Thursday.
Starting pitcher Thomas Longworth gave them that chance. The sophomore right-hander got a no decision in the MC 3-2 victory, but his eight complete innings of four-hit, one unearned-run ball gave the Blue Devils the opportunity to muster a late rally.
Nick Mello’s well-placed sacrifice bunt attempt forced a hurried throw from Pirates pitcher Ryan Wood. His errant toss to first got MC back in the win column as pinch runner Daniel McDonnell scored from second in a walk-off victory at Blue Devil Field.
“Longworth was outstanding. Both starting pitchers were,” MC coach Chris Pedretti said. “Our defense fell apart on Tuesday, but that was the exact kind of bounce back performance we needed. He gave us eight great innings and kept us in it until the offense could finally get going.”
With no fear of the ball leaving the yard thanks to a blustery afternoon, Longworth lived ahead in the count and allowed his defense to shine behind him.
His only real mistake in the game came on a Fernando Singh double in the first. Longworth should have sidestepped the double, but a two-out fielding error at short allowed Singh to score.
The Pirates (3-10-1, 1-1 Central Valley Conference) threatened to expand the lead in the third, loading the bases with one out. Longworth answered by getting Wood to bounce into a 4-6-3 inning-ending double play.
It was all Longworth after that. He allowed one hit the rest of the way and retired 15 of the last 16 batters he faced.
“This is definitely fun weather to pitch in,” Longowrth said. “It let me be aggressive. I was able to get ahead in counts and then start working in my secondary pitches.
“My defense was awesome behind me. We booted one in the first, but they made play after play after that.”
The only problem for Longworth and the Blue Devils (6-8, 4-1 CVC) was that Porterville starter Jamie Good more than lived up to his name.
He shut out MC through seven, but the Blue Devils began to figure Good out the third time through the order. MC left the bases loaded in the seventh, and then finally broke through with a rally in the eighth.
Shota Nagatomi singled in a run to tie the game and Joseph Salmeri pushed across the go-ahead run with a fielder’s choice double play.
MC couldn’t hold the lead, however, as relief pitchers Hiroki Taniguchi and Robbie Dallas struggled with command. A dropped third strike and three walks tied the game up at 2-2.
Dallas managed to limit the damage, though, and the Blue Devils won out with small ball.
Lorenzo Maestri opened the ninth with a leadoff walk, and back-to-back Porterville throwing errors on sacrifice bunts allowed the winning run to score.