Del Oro escapes from Tigers in crucial SFL test

Four-run sixth leaves Roseville in must-win situation
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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Sometimes things are not exactly what they seem to be on the baseball field.


The Roseville High baseball team got a harsh reminder of that Tuesday on its home field. Nursing a 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth inning behind a strong pitching performance from Sam Vergara, the Tigers were four outs away from a crucial Sierra Foothill League win, but it was not to be.


Brian Bynum led off the Del Oro sixth with a base hit, but Vergara got a come-backer and a strikeout to get within an out of escaping the inning. Roseville shortstop John Silva made a nice play in the hole on a Freddy Cargile grounder to stop Bynum at third as the Golden Eagle shortstop reached on an infield hit.


With runners at first and third and two out, Del Oro coach Bret Lachemann summoned Josh Akin as a pinch hitter and Vergara went right at him. An 0-2 breaking pitch in the dirt got Akin to swing and it appeared the Tigers were three outs away, but the pitch got away from Roseville catcher Anthony Roberts.


When the dust had cleared, Bynum had scored to tie the game and Akin was safely aboard at first, despite the strikeout. Del Oro’s No. 9 hitter followed, and catcher Thomas Mullen poured salt in the wound with a line drive home run over the left field fence.


The three-run shot was Mullen’s first long ball of the season, but it was the decisive blow as Del Oro held on to beat Roseville 6-4 in this critical contest.


The final nail for the Tigers came in the home half of the sixth when Roseville scored once and loaded the bases with the heart of its order up there only to have a bases-loaded strikeout end the threat and leave the Tigers short.


The game was a well-played pitchers’ battle early on as Vergara and Golden Eagle starter Cooper Johnson locked up in a tough duel. A walk and a Cargile two-bagger plated the game’s first run in the Del Oro second, and the Eagles added a second tally in the third when Mullen scored on a double play grounder.


Roseville finally lit up the scoreboard in the fourth, and the Tigers got two to pull even. They did that with just one hit, as the Tigers did not have one than one hit in any inning during the contest.


Dalton Blaser walked in the stanza and scored on a double by John Silva. The Roseville shortstop then scored the tying run on a passed ball.


Tyler Ash led off the home half of the fifth with a double down the right field line for the Tigers. After moving up 90 feet on a wild pitch, the third baseman scored on a Beau Smith ground ball to shortstop.


With Vergara dealing well on the bump, that 3-2 advantage looked like it would be enough, but then came the Del Oro sixth and suddenly the Tigers were down three with just six outs remaining.


“I thought Sam threw a great game,” said Roseville coach Hank DeMello. “Unfortunately four unearned runs hurt. He has been a stud all year and he has probably been our most consistent pitcher. He lost a tough one two weeks ago to Granite Bay, totally shut down Rocklin last week, and actually did the same to D.O. One bad break and one bad pitch.”


A two-out rally in the bottom of sixth led to the Tigers to the brink of a solid answer to Del Oro’s rally. Garrett Nunally scored as a pinch-runner on a Matt Hack base hit, while two walks and a Del Oro error left the bags jammed with two outs in a 6-4 game.


A borderline pitch up in the zone and away on a 1-2 count to Roberts was called strike three and the inning was over. The Tigers got a base runner on a Silva single in the seventh, but Mullen put a cap on his impressive day by gunning Silva down on an attempted steal of second base that abruptly ended the game.


The win puts Del Oro (8-8 in the SFL, 12-10-1 overall) within one win of clinching the SFL’s No. 3 playoff spot. This series will determine which of these two teams gets into the postseason as the two teams entered the season’s final three games tied for third.


Roseville (7-9, 12-13) is now in a must-win situation as the Tigers head to Loomis for Wednesday’s 4 p.m. game. A Roseville win there would turn Thursday’s season finale into a one-game playoff for that postseason berth.


“I told them they have a choice of how they wanted to be remembered here at Roseville,” DeMello said. “Do they want to be a team known for battling a difficult situation and coming through?”


Dalton Blaser is the likely starter on the hill for Roseville Wednesday afternoon, but DeMello will use whomever he needs to in order to find a way to get the two necessary wins.


“Our pitching rotation is who ever can get three outs,” DeMello said. “We are in a battle. Thursday doesn't matter if you don't take care of Wednesday. We take care of Wednesday then we worry about Thursday on Thursday.”




Game note: During the seventh inning Tuesday, Roseville’s injured junior star Nick Blaser got as close as he has been to the field this season. Out all year with a meniscus tear in his knee, Blaser had a helmet on his head and a bat in his hands as the count to Matt Parks reached 3-0 while Silva was on first base in the seventh. When Parks did not reach base safely, DeMello instead sent up Dillon Larson as the pinch-hitter and Blaser removed the helmet.

“Nick is close,” DeMello said. “It sure would have been nice to have him this year, but baseball (like life) isn't fair and you play with what is available.”