The Merced Volunteers erupted for five runs in the sixth inning as they erased a three-run deficit against the Fresno A’s to improve to 4-0 in the Western Amateur Baseball Federation Championships on Friday afternoon.
The Volunteers defeated Fresno 5-3 after holding on for a 7-6 win over the Petaluma Leghorns earlier in the day. Merced went a perfect 4-0 in the Red Division and will face the No. 2 seed out of the Blue Division on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. in the tournament semifinals.
“I thought our pitching was again outstanding and we played good defense,” said Volunteers coach Rollo Adams, whose team improved to 17-9. “We got timely hitting in both games. If we can continue to understand how the game is played we have a chance to do some things down the road in the playoffs.”
Merced started slowly offensively against Fresno right-hander Louie Vallejo. The Volunteers were unable to string together hits in the first five innings.
Meanwhile, the A’s jumped on Merced starter Josh May for two runs in the first inning as Brandon Hepp tripled in a run and Isaiah Daniel hit a sacrifice fly.
Hepp added an RBI single in the second inning to extend the A’s lead to 3-0.
The Volunteers finally came alive in the sixth as Christian Witt blasted a triple to deep center field to start the rally.
“He’s been getting some big hits for us all summer,” Adams said. “The other day he had a two-run double that ignited us. He’s swinging the bat with a lot of confidence.”
Vallejo then hit Tanner Pellissier and Evan Hanneman to load the bases with no outs. Josh Penrod followed with a two-run double to center to cut the lead to 3-2.
“I was just looking to drive in a run there,” said Penrod, who went 2 for 3 with two doubles. “I was looking for a pitch I could hit to right field or a pitch I could hit to center and get a sacrifice fly.”
After Penrod’s double, the A’s intentionally walked Jacob Alarcon to reload the bases.
Blake Jantz made Fresno pay with a two-run single that bounced over the shortstop’s head to give Merced a 4-3 lead.
“That intentional walk kind of got to me,” Jantz said. “It motivated me to put the ball in play. I wanted to score some runs for us.”
After May walked to reloaded the bases, Kobe Nguyen singled to right to score Alarcon to extend the Volunteers’ lead to 5-3.
Lawrence Anderson picked up the win in relief and Witt pitched a perfect seventh inning to pick up the save.
The Volunteers opened the day with the win over the Leghorns with Penrod pitching five innings to pick up the win.
The Volunteers opened up a 5-1 lead with a four-run third inning. Anderson singled to lead off the inning. May reached on an error and Pellissier walked to load the bases.
Hanneman followed with an RBI single to plate Anderson. An errant throw allowed both May and Pellissier to come around to score.
Witt doubled in a run and Alarcon singled in a run in the fifth inning to increase the Volunteers’ lead to 7-4.
The Leghorns made it interesting in the sixth inning when Mac Meyn hit a two-run homer over the right-field wall to cut the lead to 7-6.
However, Witt was able to come in and get the final out to close out the game that was called after six innings because of the tournament time limit.