The California Pintos baseball team (17-3) completed its comeback attempt April 24 to defeat the Versailles Tigers 5-4 and win the championship game of the California/Versailles Turf War Tournament.
En route to its tournament crown, California won 4-0 against Linn on April 22 in the first round of the tournament. In that game, Ian Peterson struck out 12 batters for California as he and Ethan Bloch combined for a no-hitter for California. The Pintos followed up their no-hitter victory with a blow-out win against Warsaw, earning an 18-3 result in the semifinal round to advance to the championship game.
In the championship game, California struck first; in the bottom of the first inning, with a man on second base and one out, Tagen Higgins hit a double to left field to make it 1-0.
Versailles answered back in the top of the second inning to take the lead. The Tigers took advantage of multiple errors in the inning, one of which led to a base runner to start the inning. Later, another error led to Versailles tying the game at 1. Versailles kept the momentum and took a 2-1 lead on a base hit before adding another run thanks to another error to make it 3-1. The Tigers added one more run in the second inning to make it a 4-1 game.
That big second inning would end up being the only time the Tigers brought any runs across home plate, as the Pintos held them scoreless for the rest of the game. Head coach Steven Stock said the Pintos kept themselves in the game after the second inning.
“We got ourselves in a hole with four errors, but to their credit, we kept them at four and gave us a chance to get back into the game,” Stock said. “They kept us in the game and did not let that one inning beat us.”
The Pintos were able to get a runner to third base in the bottom of the second inning but could not get the run home.
Versailles had a chance to add to its lead later on in the top of the fifth inning, with the bases loaded and two outs, but California was able to get out of the jam without giving up a run. The score stayed the same until the bottom of the fifth inning, when Lucas Ash hit a two-run home run to make it a 4-3 game.
After a scoreless sixth inning and a quiet top of the seventh inning, the Pintos were down to their last three outs and still down by a run.
Drake Schlup and Ian Peterson were both able to get on base in the seventh inning; the Pintos were able to capitalize to tie the game at 4-4. Later in the inning, with one out and two runners on base, both runners advanced on a bad pitch and Versailles proceeded to intentionally walk so the bases were loaded. After getting a force out at home for the second out of the inning, California was down to its last out. Kaden Bax hit a ground ball near the Tigers’ shortstop, who had trouble getting the ball, and the winning run was able to cross the plate to complete the Pintos’ 5-4 comeback.
Stock said the team is going to be in this kind of situation — where it has to complete close games down the stretch — as the season continues, and this game taught them about how to deal with such situations.
“It lets them understand, in a one-run game, when you execute and do the little things right, you can score one or two runs here when you need it and maybe steal a win like we did today,” Stock said.
Stock said in the final inning, it all started with getting that first base runner.
“We just had to have a base runner, and it started with Drake (Schlup); if you get on base, we are going to have a chance to score and it turned out to be that way,” Stock said. “Again, it all starts with someone getting on base.”
The Pintos scored the team’s five runs on six hits and had seven errors in the game. Versailles scored four runs on two hits and had four errors in the game. Ash led the Pintos with two hits and also led the team with two RBIs in the game. Ethan Bloch pitched five innings for California, and Ash pitched two innings.
The team’s next games are May 1 against Centralia and Father Tolton at Centralia.