Apaches record game-winner with aggressive baserunning
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Little things can have a big impact when two evenly matched teams are competing. Therefore, it was no surprise to the participants Saturday at Antonian when the winning run came home as a result of virtual hiccup.
Central Catholic (11-9, 2-2) had only committed one relatively harmless error entering the sixth inning. A two-out throwing error on a steal situation tipped the scales toward the home team, providing the Apaches (20-5, 3-1) a 2-1 victory after the Buttons had tied the score in the top of the inning.
“It’s always that way when we play Central Catholic,” Antonian coach Willie Gawlik said. “It’s two good teams and it was a great game. Last year, we won 2-1 with a run in the bottom of the seventh.
“It doesn’t matter whether whether it’s baseball, basketball, football or soccer. It doesn’t matter what the records are. It’s just a great rivalry, like Churchill-Clark.”
Neither Central Catholic starting pitcher Zach Godfrey or Apaches starter Troy Garcia (6-1) allowed a hit through the first four innings. In fact, the teams only had two baserunners apiece during that span.
Steve Wynn got the game’s first hit for Antonian in the bottom of the fourth. The Buttons’ other error, on a misplayed bunt, sent him to second base and Wynn scored on Nolan Ellis’ single to right field. Godfrey escaped the jam with a bases-loaded strikeout.
“When we play Antonian, it’s always about bringing your ‘A’ game and not giving up an out,” Gomez said.
Zack Arambula and Nash Noal broke the ice for Central Catholic in the fifth.
Arambula dumped a single into center field with one out for the Buttons’ first hit. Following a foul pop out, Noal smashed a solid single to left-center, enabling Arambula to scramble into scoring position at third base.
“We knew there was a chance it’d be a one-run game,” Gomez said, “and we definitely wanted to win. I think we were a little too anxious early. Once we started being more disciplined, we got better pitches to swing at.”
Despite the threat, Garcia got a crucial two-out strikeout that kept the Buttons scoreless and ultimately may have enabled the senior left-hander to finish the game.
“He kept his composure,” Gawlik said. “They could have had a big inning. That was the ballgame right there.”
Antonian loaded the bases in the fifth, setting up a suicide squeeze attempt. Godfrey, who moved to third base to accommodate reliever Jonathan Ramirez, caught the bunt in the air and threw to third base for an inning-ending double play that kept the Apaches’ lead at 1-0.
“They had a runner at third and Josh’s job is to (charge toward the plate) if the runner goes,” Central Catholic coach Mike Gomez said. “The ball was up in the air and he was in position to do what he needed to do. It was a great defensive play.”
In the sixth, Godfrey dropped down a safety squeeze bunt that tied it 1-1. Jake Rodriguez delivered a leadoff single and Max Grullon beat out a bunt to set the stage.
“We had the No. 3 hitter come up, and you expect him to drive in runs,” Gomez said, explaining the decision to attempt a squeeze bunt. “We needed somebody to pick up that run, so I think it was a no-brainer.”
Gomez summoned senior Brian Prescott to pitch the sixth. It was the right-hander’s first action since being sidelined with a rotator-cuff strain that originally was assessed a more severe diagnosis.
“We’ve struggled a little bit with our pitching,” Gomez said. “We’ve had a lot of injuries. Brian was told two or three weeks ago that he had a season-ending injury.
“He came into close and did a great job. He put us in a position to win.”
The Apaches’ Christian Trevino lined a one-out single in the sixth. He advanced on a wild pitch and saw the opportunity to steal third. On the play, the Buttons’ throw sailed into left field and Trevino came in with the eventual winning run.
“Trevino did a great job,” Gawlik said. “I gave him the green light. I told him, ‘If you like it, you can go.’ That was a big play.
“That’s how tough this game was. One play makes or breaks you.”