Golden Bears tie Highlands for fourth in 29-4A
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Edison got hits throughout Friday afternoon’s District 28-4A game at SAISD Field No. 1. Then, when the Golden Bears really needed runs, they found a way to score without the benefit of a base hit.
The Golden Bears (3-13, 3-5) helped create a crazy situation in the district with a 4-3 walk-off win over Highlands (8-11, 3-5). The win, coupled with Jefferson’s upset of third-place Lanier, forged a three-way tie for fourth-place in 28-4A.
“This was a great win,” veteran Edison coach Billy Montemayor said. “It put the kids on top of the district. They’re finding ways to get better. They’re so young.”
Edison had nine hits in the game, but had none in the seventh inning.
The unlikely ending unfolded with one out in the seventh. Highlands starter Justin Sanchez hit Edison’s Nate Jimenez with a pitch. First-year Owls coach Stephen Jauregui then decided it was time to make a change, citing both Sanchez’s pitch count and the result of the pitch.
“At that point, it was just a high pitch count and the top of the order was coming up,” Jauregui said. “We were looking at their 2-3-4 hitters. I took a chance with a faster arm to see if he could get their tough guys out. I took a chance to get out of the inning.”
Freshman Bryan Aguilar entered in relief for Highlands and also hit a batsman. Julio Alvarez, the soon-to-be winning pitcher, took first base and the Golden Bears’ top hitter, Julian Cortez, moved to the batter’s box. Highlands opted to issue him an intentional walk.
Cortez already had two hits.
“He’s probably batting .500 or .600 in the district,” Montemayor said. “He’s a tough kid who finds a way to get on. We call him ‘Curls’ because of his hair.”
That’s when chaos unfolded.
A wild pitch brought in the tying run with cleanup hitter Alec Suarez in the batter’s box. With two runners on base, Suarez hit a grounder that enabled Alvarez to cross the plate with the winning run.
“In district, we’ve started hitting the ball more and making less mistakes,” said Alvarez, a senior left-hander who limited the Owls to three hits. “We’ve just continued to improve on that.
“Right now, it feels great. We won the game, and we played pretty well, too.”
Highlands had taken a 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth. Josh Ortega led off with a double, advanced on Gus Castro’s sacrifice bunt and scored on Ryan Bailey’s ground out.
Edison’s upset win preceded one from Jefferson (5-14, 3-5), which also moved into fourth. Idle Burbank (2-5 in district) was just a half-game behind in seventh. The top four finishers will qualify for the playoffs.
Brennan (14-6-1, 7-1) remained in first place with a 6-1 win over second-place Brackenridge (9-8, 5-2).
Highlands, alone in fourth when the game began, didn’t own the lead until the sixth. Alvarez retired the first nine Owls batters in order, without surrendering a hit.
“Jose pitched fantastic,” Montemayor said. “I think he’s probably the best pitcher in the district. .”
Alvarez features a high leg kick, reminiscent of San Francisco Giants Hall-of-Famer Juan Marichal. The senior said he uses it as a timing mechanism.
“I’ve always had it, since I first started pitching,” Alvarez said. “I didn’t pick it up as much when I was in seventh grade, but when I started getting stronger, I started picking it up higher. It helps me a lot, too.
“It makes me stay around the plate.”
Edison scored first, when Jimenez hit a smash which handcuffed Jefferson’s third baseman and drove in a run. The Owls tied it a short time later after Aguilar led off the fourth with a double. Ortega made it 1-1 with a sacrifice fly.
The Golden Bears jumped ahead in the bottom of the fourth. Cortez, Tristen Pequeno and
Chris Velez lined singles. Velez collected the RBI with one out, but Edison stranded two runners in the fourth and left the bases loaded in the fifth.
“(Sanchez) did pretty well,” Jauregui said. “I told him to just get out there and throw strikes. He made them swing the bat. He did what I asked him to.”
Edison left the door open for Highlands, which manufactured runs in both innings.
Owls catcher-shortstop John Cruz started the fifth with an infield single. He advanced on Gabriel Gomez’s bunt. A dropped third strike – on what should have been the third out of the inning – enabled Cruz to make it 2-2 in the top of the fifth.
Highlands made efficient use of its offensive chances. The Owls only left three runners on base.
“Offensively, I thought we did a good job,” Jauregui said. “We’ve been stressing aggressive baserunning. They made a few errors, which helped us out, but we did a good job of making contact and limiting strikeouts.”
Edison, which entered district play winless after absorbing heavy graduation losses, takes a break from district play Tuesday. The Golden Bears will returns to action with a tough challenge against Brackenridge 7 p.m. Friday at SAISD No. 2.
“It’s a very young group of kids, but they’re great kids,” Montemayor said. “They all make grades but, with baseball, they’ve been a little slow to (learn).
“We can get better, and I think we’ll continue to get better. They’re young, but they’re finding a way to win.”
Highlands aims to bounce back Tuesday in a 7 p.m. game at SAISD No. 1. The Owls are slated to play Lanier at 4:30 p.m. Friday on field No. 1.
They are two games that could go a long way toward defining Highlands’ playoff potential in a district gone off the rails.
“Lanier losing to Jefferson was good for us,” Jauregui said. “We’re hoping to take care of business against Jefferson. Then, if Brennan beats Lanier, we’ll play Lanier on Friday in a must-win game.”