The absurd has become routine when it comes to Merced High baseball games.
Merced used an eight-run fifth inning and a four-run eighth inning to emerge with a 13-9 victory Wednesday to remain one game behind Turlock in the conference standings.
One game after scoring five runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to defeat Golden Valley, the Bears found themselves in another topsy-turvy battle with Atwater at Memorial Ballpark.
It was a game that saw the Bears overcome four errors and battle back after letting a four-run lead evaporate late.
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“We don’t play as cleanly as we need to play going forward,” said Merced coach Justin Parle. “We’ve talked about it and our guys know that. Generally in baseball, the team that makes the most mistakes loses. Both teams made mistakes today, but one thing we’ve learned is how to battle through them.”
The Bears (16-6 overall, 9-2 Central California Conference) were in a tough spot early trailing Atwater ace Ryan Sanchez 5-1 after fourth innings. Derek Molina delivered a big two-out, two-run triple in the bottom of the fourth inning to help give the Falcons (10-5, 6-5) the early lead.
Things quickly unraveled for the Falcons in the fifth.
Merced took advantage of five walks, a hit batter and two Atwater errors to erupt for eight runs as the Bears sent 14 batters to the plate in the fifth.
The Bears scored all eight runs after there were two outs in the inning.
“It must be a Merced thing,” Atwater coach Jarrod Pimentel said. “We gave up some walks and a hit batter. I thought there was a called missed at first base and we made an error at third. Merced is a team that thrives off momentum. They’ve been that way since I watched them as a little kid. That’s what they did tonight.”
Merced had the bases loaded in the fifth with two outs when two errors opened up the big inning. Armando Flores hit a grounder that was bobbled at third and Victor Tiscareno’s throw pulled Wyatt Pimentel off the bag at first. Mitchell Miller then hit a ground ball to shortstop and the umpire ruled Molina’s throw pulled Pimentel’s foot off the bag.
With the Falcons’ lead trimmed to 5-3, Atwater went to the bullpen and Merced’s Alex Ortega greeted Quin Heckman with a two-run single to tie the game at 5-5.
Amani Hicks added an RBI single, Tanner McBurney was hit with the bases loaded and Isidro Mendoza and Craig Bettis were both walked to force in runs as Merced jumped out to a 9-5 lead.
“It’s a battle,” Miller said. “You have to stay up and you have to continue putting runs on the board. We’ve been down before. It’s not like we haven’t been in that situation before.”
The Falcons had some help as they came back to tie the game with four runs in the bottom of the sixth. An error and two hit batters loaded the bases with no outs. Tiscareno drove in a run with a ground ball and Ryan Sanchez singled in a run to cut the Bears’ lead to 9-7. Molina then crushed a two-run triple to tie the game at 9-9.
Atwater had an opportunity to win the game in the seventh with the winning run on second base with one out. However, Miller came on to pitch and sandwiched two strikeouts around an intentional walk to Molina to get out of the jam.
Merced rode that momentum in the eighth as the first six hitters reached base, including five consecutive hits. Miller drove in the go-ahead run with a bases-loaded single. Ortega followed with a two-run double and Jeremy Mendoza added a run-scoring single to extend the lead to 13-9.
The win sets up a big matchup today at 4 p.m. at home against Turlock for the Bears. A victory would create a tie atop the CCC standings with the Bears holding the tie-breaker advantage against Turlock.
After using Jordan Kemps, Jeremy Mendoza and Miller on the mound Wednesday, Parle was unsure who would get the start on the mound today.
“It’ll be one of those sleepless nights where I’m trying to dream up a concept,” Parle said. “We have guys who haven’t pitched much for us this season, but have pitched well for us this summer.”