Lawrence Anderson only had two at-bats for the Merced High baseball game entering Friday night’s game against Golden Valley.
The Bears’ junior will now have an at-bat he’ll never forget.
Anderson hit a ground ball with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning. Golden Valley shortstop David Vidauri ran to his right and grabbed the ball, but his throw to the plate pulled catcher Ernie Cervantes off the plate as Armani Hicks slid across for the winning run as Merced won 8-7 with a dramatic five-run, seventh-inning rally.
The Bears (15-6 overall, 8-2 Central California Conference) remained just one game back of Turlock in the Central California Conference standings.
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It was a stunning comeback after what seemed to be Golden Valley’s night.
Despite a 1-17 record, the Cougars came out fired up with an opportunity to play in front of another large Nannini Game crowd. The bleachers were packed during a pregame ceremony that saw Dave Nannini hand $300 scholarships to all 19 senior players from both teams.
Since 2004, the Brian and Kevin Nannini Scholarship Foundation has handed out over 120 scholarships worth over $50,000.
Golden Valley seemed ignited by the energy of the crowd, as the Cougars came out and jumped on top of Merced starter Mitchell Miller with three runs in the first inning. Ben Fletcher and Eddie Oguayo highlighted the rally with run-scoring singles.
The Bears battled back and almost pulled even in the bottom of the fourth. Armando Flores drove in a run with a single and Tanner McBurney was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to cut the lead to 4-3. The Bears still had the bases loaded, but Vidauri struck out out Isidro Mendoza to get out of the jam.
Vidauri turned in a gutsy performance. The fourth-year varsity player pitched out of jams in the fifth and sixth, but Merced kept coming.
Trailing 7-3, Merced’s Craig Bettis walked to start the bottom of the seventh and Josh May connected on his second double of the game.
One out later, Flores delivered his third hit of the game, driving in two runs to cut the lead to 7-5. Alex Ortega followed with a single to finally chase Vidauri from the game.
The Cougars bullpen struggled. A hit batter, an Evan Hanneman single and a McBurney walk with the bases loaded tied the game at 7-7.
That set the stage for Anderson and a wild Bears celebration.