Given some of the defensive gems the Merced College baseball team had made on Tuesday night, the game’s deciding play was a particularly harsh.
With the Blue Devils clinging to a one-run lead in the ninth inning, closer Carl Jameson appeared to have worked his way out of a bases loaded jam.
Michael Tittle put a decent swing on the two-out Jameson offering, but right fielder Nick Mello got back on the ball and appeared to be in position for the final out.
Unfortunately for MC, Mello never seemed to get his legs completely back under him and as he fell the ball bounced out of his glove for a base-clearing error. The Rams plated four runs in the inning and held on for a dramatic 8-7 victory at Blue Devil field.
“That’s a rough loss,” MC head coach Nate Devine said. “Really, that’s all you can say about that.
“We have to put it behind us and get back out here ready to work (on Wednesday). We’ve got two more games with these guys and this is one we’re going to have to bounce back from quick.”
The Blue Devils (14-11, 8-5 Central Valley Conference) kept fighting until the end, rallying with two outs in the bottom half of the ninth.
Ryan Emerald doubled and Ryan Cumberland singled him in to trim the lead to 8-7, but it was as close as Merced would get.
“I liked the way we battled,” Devine said. “We got down early and rallied back. I think we pushed across the first three runs without ever getting a ball out of the infield, so we found a way to make things happen.
“Unfortunately, they made some plays offensively and defensively when they had too as well.”
Justin Flores doubled in a run in the first inning to put Fresno City (17-8, 11-2 CVC) up 1-0.
The Rams added to that lead in the third with a Anthony Hawkins solo home run and a Ryne Dean RBI single.
MC starter Ryan McDaniel settled in after that.
The sophomore limited the Rams to just one run on one hit in his final three innings, striking out seven.
The Blue Devil offense picked him up in the bottom of the third.
MC hit through the order with a Robbie Dallas single getting things going.
A couple bunts and a couple throwing errors helped get the Blue Devils on the board, and a wild pitch cut the lead to 3-2. Cumberland tied things up with an RBI ground out. Garrett Boothe and Ricky McColloch delivered a pair of two-out run-scoring singles to put MC up 5-3.
Each team tacked on a run to make it 6-4, and the Blue Devils kept it that way until the ninth with some stellar defense, including a 4-6-3 triple-play to end a threat in the seventh.
“We’re not blaming anything on Mello, we made mistakes throughout the game,” McDaniel said. “We have multiple opportunities to expand our lead and couldn’t do it.
“This is a loss we just have to erase. We’ve got two more games with them. If we go and get a win at their place, everything is back to square.
“That’s where our focus has to be, winning on Thursday.”