Bobcats win tie-breaker, make third-straight playoff trip
South San picked the perfect time to end its swoon.
The Bobcats (14-13, 3-7) lost their last six District 28-5A games, landing them in a fourth-place tie with Steele (13-15, 3-7). However, South San reversed the skid with a decisive 13-7 victory over the Knights in the tie-breaker game Saturday afternoon at SAISD Field No. 1 and extended their streak of consecutive playoff appearances to three.
“We just keep fighting,” South San senior catcher Adrian Gallegos said. “The past three years, we’ve made the playoffs, and it’s been good. We wanted to take it to them. We’re seniors now and we want to go out on top.”
Gallegos was a freshman in 2011, the last time the Bobcats failed to make the playoffs. They also finished with a 3-7 district record that season.
This year, three of South San’s last five losses were by five runs or fewer, including a 5-0 loss at home to undefeated district champion Corpus Christi Carroll (27-3, 10-0) Friday that forced the tie-breaker.
“We’ve been our worst enemy,” South San coach Robert Zamora said. “but we got a second chance.”
South San wasted no time in taking advantage of the opportunity.
The Bobcats manufactured a five-run rally in their half of the first, after falling behind 1-0 when Steele’s P.J. Sanchez doubled and Josh Haese followed with a run-scoring single. South San drew five walks from the first of the three pitchers the Knights employed, helping to fuel the outburst.
South San senior pitcher John Gamez (1-for-3, RBI) got things started with a base on balls. Daniel Delgado was safe on a fielder’s choice, bringing up Gallegos (2-for-4, 2 RBIs). The fourth-year varsity player drove in the tying run with double to the right-center field gap. Delgado also scored on the play when the ball was misplayed for the first of Steele’s six errors.
After a walk to Frank Bosmans, Nick Herrera drove an RBI single. Herrera scored the fourth run on a wild pitch. Isaac Lugo reached base on a fielder’s choice, ahead of three walks, and scored on a throwing error for a 5-1 lead.
“We knew we were a winning team,” Gamez said. “We were going to play as hard as we could. Fortunately, we got a big lead. Then all I had to do was throw strikes.”
The Knights didn’t score again against Gamez until the fifth inning.
“I just tried to go hard at them and get outs,” he said.
In the South San fourth, designated hitter Joe Miera (2-for-3, 3 RBIs) delivered a two-run single with two outs. The hit prompted Steele’s second pitching change, but didn’t stop the Bobcats. Herrera scored on a suicide-squeeze bunt from Rafael Lopez that increased South San’s lead to 8-1 at the end of four innings.
From that point, though, South San wasn’t able to coast.
With one out in the fifth, the Knights worked two consecutive walks. Tyler Petoskey hit a chopper that got through the infield and Steele was within six.
“Those walks have a way of coming back to bite you,” Zamora lamented. “They scored their first urn after a walk. With any walks we give up, it’s almost been a 100-percent chance that they score. There has been no eight or nine out of 10, or even 50-50.”
Steele drew two more walks to lead off the sixth, igniting a four-run rally.
Corey Killen was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, forcing in the first run. With bases still full, Jake Webb gave the Knights an easy run with a walk. Steele pulled within 8-6 on a two-run single from Petoskey.
Webb scored on a bases-loaded walk again in the seventh, but the outcome already had been decided.
“We took advantage of their mistakes early, but they fought back,” Zamora said. “Finally, we got a comebacker and were able to get out of that inning.”
The Bobcats pulled their bacon out of the fire in the bottom of the sixth, manufacturing a five-run rally that started with a hit batsman from Herrera.
Miera and Gamez contributed RBI singles. With two outs, Gallegos drew a bases-loaded walk that forced in a run and the Bobcats scored on an error that made it 13-6.
“It was a great win at a great time,” Gallegos said. “It’s been a rough couple of weeks, but the playoffs are another chance to win.”
Despite the bumpy finish, South San responded when Steele posed a threat.
“I’m very proud of the boys on this team,” Zamora said. “We could have, very easily, just folded and not showed pride in (this) game. But we had a lot of pride and a lot of heart, in playing the way we did. I was just so happy for the team, rebounding the way we did.”
The Bobcats will play District 27-5A champion O’Connor (28-1) in a three-game bi-district series. Games are scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Northside Field No. 2, 7 p.m. Friday at South San and 2 p.m. Saturday (if necessary) at South San.
“That’s what everyone shoots for,” Zamora said of the postseason appearance. “We’ve got a ticket to the dance. Whatever happens, happens. I want to make sure we have a chance (to win).”
South San will have a reunion O’Connor, No. 1 in the Express-News area rankings. The teams met in the area round last year, with the Panthers winning 1-0 in a one-game showdown.
“We’ll compete with everything we have against them,” Gamez said. “We don’t care who we play. We’ll do our part and compete.”