To upset top-seeded Firebaugh High School, the Chowchilla baseball team knew it had to play a clean game on defense and not give the high-powered Eagles offense any help.
That didn’t happen.
The eighth-seeded Tribe (14-16) committed five errors in the first three innings as Firebaugh jumped out to a five-run lead and coasted to a 7-0 win in the Central Section Division IV quarterfinals Friday afternoon at Firebaugh High.
“It didn’t happen the first three innings,” said Chowchilla coach Shawn Grissom. “We dropped two fly balls in the outfield. We dropped one infield pop-up. We didn’t come ready to play. I don’t know why.”
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The Eagles took advantage of the Chowchilla mistakes. Firebaugh pitcher Brian Lopez hit a ball that was dropped in right field by Tribe senior Mason Musick, allowing Adrian Gutierrez to score from third base for the first run. Jeshua Gutierrez followed with an RBI single off Chowchilla starter Austin Hickman.
Hickman was forced to pitch with runners on base during much of his outing.
Firebaugh’s Isaiah Baez doubled to start the second inning. Out out later, Nathan Chapman hit a pop-up that was dropped by second baseman Carlos Iniguez, putting runners on first and third.
Tyler Palmer then hit a fly ball to center that bounced out of the glove of Cody Woolsey, allowing Baez to score.
Hickman got Noey Garcia to hit a soft liner that was caught by Iniguez, and he beat Palmer to second base for a double play that got the Tribe out of a bases-loaded jam in the second.
Hickman said he just had to pitch through the miscues.
“It’s pretty tough, but it’s part of baseball,” Hickman said. “You’ve got to work through it, but it does hurt your pitch count.”
Two more errors combined with four hits in the third helped Firebaugh extend the lead to 5-0.
Meanwhile, the Tribe had a tough time getting anything going against Lopez. The Eagles’ ace came into the game with a 5-1 record and 0.58 ERA. Chowchilla managed just four hits as Lopez struck out nine.
“Brian Lopez is very good,” Grissom said. “He’s extremely competitive when he’s on the mound. He has good velocity. He has a good breaking ball. He’s a good pitcher.”
The Tribe defense settled down after three innings and didn’t commit an error the rest of the way, but the damage was done.
Every Firebaugh starter had at least one hit, and the Eagles finished with 12.
“We were extremely up and down all season,” Grissom said. “We were in a lot of close games, and we lost a lot of them because we couldn’t close out games. We also had a lot of games where we came back. This team plays hard for seven innings. These guys never quit.”