Pat Fuentes wasn’t about to shy away from the aggressive style his Los Banos baseball team had played with all season.
So, with his squad down to its last out and trailing by a run with the Tigers’ fastest runner on first in the bottom of the seventh inning, Fuentes didn’t hesitate to wave Trent Mallonee home when Julian Arrechavala’s opposite-field double hit the Tony Zupo Field turf and kicked away from the Colfax left fielder.
The Falcons’ Matt Hayes recovered quickly and fired the ball to his cut-off man. Mallonee hesitated slightly while rounding third and had to quickly accelerate again. The relay throw beat him to the plate by a couple steps, and despite an excellent effort at a dive around the catcher, the sophomore was tagged out at the plate to end the game and seal No. 9 Colfax’s 3-2 victory over the top-seeded Tigers in the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs.
“I thought he was going to hold me up at third,” said Mallonee, who was 2 for 4 in the loss. “I stopped at third a little bit and hesitated before I went home. He had the plate blocked off. There wasn’t really anything I could have done to get around him.”
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In a way, it was a fitting end to a game in which the Colfax defense routinely made plays and Los Banos (20-5) didn’t.
The usually reliable Tiger defense committed a season-high six errors in the first five innings on Thursday night, two of which led directly to all three Falcon (15-13) runs.
A one-out single from Gauge Spencer helped get the offense going for Colfax in the top of the third inning. A fielding error put two on and a wild pitch moved them both into scoring position. Los Banos starting pitcher Cody Cardoza answered with one of his 10 strikeouts and appeared to be out of the inning when he induced a ground ball to short. Instead, the ball got through and both runners scored to give the Falcons a 2-0 lead.
“Disappointed is the word I’m using, but it’s really 10 times that,” Fuentes said. “You commit five, six errors in a game and you expect it to go that way. It’s kind of amazing we’re still right there in it in the last inning.
“It just sucks to play the way we did all season and then to have it end with a game like this.”
Despite the setbacks, LB showed no lack of fight, tying the game back up in the bottom of the fourth.
Arrechavala (4 for 4) opened the inning with a single and, after a stolen base, Josh Gomes dropped down a perfect bunt to put runners on the corners. Vincent Alvarez got the Tigers on the board with a sacrifice fly. Landon Ramos was plunked to put two on again and Cardoza helped his own cause with a run-scoring single to tie it up.
LB missed a chance to grab control of the game as both runners moved into scoring position on the throw to the plate and just one out. The rally would end there, however.
It proved costly as Colfax went right back on top in the next inning.
Colton Reeves drew a lead-off walk and moved up to second after tagging up on a deep fly ball to center. Cardoza answered with a strikeout and should have been out of the inning with a routine ground ball to short. Gomes’ throw was on the money but bounced in and out of Ryan Lopez’s glove at first. Reeves never stopped running on the play and scored from second to give the Falcons a 3-2 lead.
Freshman Landon Ramos came out and tossed a pair of scoreless innings – including escaping a bases-loaded, no-out jam – to keep hope alive for LB.
Mallonee continued that theme with a two-out single in the seventh to set up Arrechavala’s double and the wild final play.
“I thought Trent was going home and just hoped for the best at that point,” Arrechavala said. “They made a good play. That’s baseball sometimes.
“I think we came into this game a little too excited and it took us a while to settle down. We got back to basics, but had already made too many mistakes.”