The California Pintos baseball team (18-8) tied the game at 6 in the bottom of the seventh inning but ultimately lost to the No. 3 ranked team in Class 4, the Blair Oaks Falcons, 8-6 in nine innings on May 10.
Blair Oaks jumped out to a 1-0 lead after the first inning and held its advantage until more than halfway through the game. The Falcons added to their lead in the third inning and scored three runs to make it 4-0, thanks in part to two errors by California. In the bottom of the third inning, California had a runner on second after a one out double by Hunter Berendzen, but the Pintos’ offense was not able to bring him across home plate.
The Falcons added another pair of runs in the top of the fourth inning to make it 6-0. In the bottom of the fourth inning, the Pintos had a runner on second thanks to a two out double by Tagen Higgins, but again, the Pintos could not convert.
California escaped a two-out-bases-loaded jam in the top of the fifth inning to keep the score at 6-0, but the offense went down quietly in the bottom half of the inning.
The Pintos were finally able to get on the board in the bottom of the sixth inning, and they did it in a big way. With two outs in the inning and a runner in scoring position, Trevor Myers smacked a single into the outfield that made it 6-1. A couple of batters later, Ian Peterson drove in two runs with a base hit to make it 6-3. Berendzen followed that up with another double to score two more runs; suddenly, the Pintos were down by just one run at 6-5 at the end of the inning.
Head coach Steven Stock said the team was flat for most of the game up until that point on offense.
“Well, we were flat, boring for four or five innings. We just came up and went through the motions,” Stock said. “We got a little momentum, and they say the old cliche that hitting is contagious. We got a few hits here and a few hits there and all of the sudden, we put together a nice inning. And another inning to tie it up on big hits. We just have to play this game with emotion and play from the first pitch to the last pitch. If we can do that, we are a pretty good baseball team.”
The Pintos played some tough defense after the fourth inning, holding Blair Oaks to zero runs from the fifth through the eighth inning.
Stock said the Pintos’ defense made plays when it had to.
“We just threw the ball over the plate and our fielders made plays when we had to make plays,” Stock said. “We got our relief pitchers in, and they threw the ball over the plate. Pitching and defense, when you throw strikes and the defense fields it behind you, you’ve got a chance to win about every game.”
In the bottom of the seventh inning, after the first two batters were retired, Lucas Ash was walked on four straight pitches to put the tying run on first. Higgins was the next batter up. With the Pintos down to their final strike with a full count, Higgins hit a bloop single into right field that just stayed fair and Ash hustled all the way from first to home to beat the throw to tie the game.
Neither team scored in the eighth inning, but the Falcons broke their silence in the top of the ninth. To begin the inning, Blair Oaks quickly had two runners on and no outs and took the lead on a base hit to right field to make it 7-6. The Falcons added one more run in the inning to make it 8-6.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Pintos were able to get a runner to first base but couldn’t rally again as the Falcons closed out the game.
California scored its six runs on nine hits and had six errors in the game. Blair Oaks scored its eight runs on 12 hits and had no errors in the game.
Tagen Higgins led the Pintos with three hits, and Hunter Berendzen led the team with two RBIs. On the mound, Trevor Myers pitched four innings and struck out two batters.
Stock said forcing the game into extras told the team what it already knew — that the Pintos are good enough to win some more games.
“If we can get 20 guys to focus, to come in here and play baseball at the level they are capable of playing, lose everything else except baseball and play the game like it is supposed to be, we are good enough to win some more games,” Stock said.
The Pintos’ next game will be a rematch of Monday’s matchup, as they face off against Blair Oaks at 6 p.m May 19 in the semifinal round of the Class 4 District 8 Tournament at California.