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Tigers fight on, beat Del Oro to force decisive finale

Ash pitches Roseville past Golden Eagles in must-win game
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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With its season on the brink, the Roseville High baseball team handed the ball to Tyler Ash, and the right-hander delivered in a big way. Ash kept the Del Oro hitters off balance all day long, and he needed to, as his performance was matched by Golden Eagle hurler Cole Perez. The two engaged in a classic pitcher’s duel, and but for the dealing of Ash and the Tigers’ success as small-ball, Thursday’s season finale would have been meaningless. Roseville did deliver, however, posting a 2-1 victory that makes that last league game worth everything. The winner Thursday will play in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs, and the loser’s season will come to an abrupt end. Del Oro had a pair of runners on base in the first frame via a walk and an infield single, but the rest of the stanza followed a similar pattern to the rest of the contest. Ash kept the ball away from the fat part of the Golden Eagle bats and induced three pop-ups on the infield to keep Del Oro off the scoreboard. “Tyler can be very effective,” said Roseville coach Hank DeMello. “He has some great outings and some with very little luck. He hits his spots and keeps the walks down then he will be fine. He has movement every so often. Yesterday he did.” A ground-ruled double off the bat of Freddy Cargile and a flare single from Max Magleby got the Eagles the early advantage in the second, but that was the end of Del Oro’s offense. The Tigers provided an immediate response, scoring two runs on just one hit in the top of the third, and it could have been a bigger inning as Roseville left the bags juiced. As the Tigers’ only other offensive threat came in the fourth, when they came up empty, it was fortunate that Ash made those two runs stand up. Conner Eggleston walked to open the Roseville third, and then he was safe on a fielder’s choice when Perez made an ill-advised attempt to gun down the lead runner on Ash’s sacrifice bunt. With two aboard, lead-off man Matt Hack proved persistent as he executed a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners even after he had a two-strike count. The Tigers attempted to cap off the inning with another piece of small ball, but Beau Smith’s bunt went foul on an attempted squeeze play. Eventually, Roseville jammed the bases for right fielder Dalton Blaser, whose two-out knock chased home Eggleston and Ash to put the Tigers on top to stay. “Sometimes you have to do what they don't expect,” DeMello said. “I really don't think the league thinks Roseville will bunt. That's okay, you do what you’ve got to do. It would be nice to get more offense as I'm not sure the coach can handle it. We have hit some balls hard this series, but right at them. We have 10 line-outs in two games. When they fall, look out.” From that point on, the pitching took over as Ash and Perez took turns posting zeroes. Roseville managed just four hits against the Del Oro senior, and had not hits after the fourth frame. Perez set down the final nine Tiger hitters in order. Ash was on his game as well, but not without having to perform a Houdini-style escape act on more than one occasion. An error, a sacrifice followed by an intentional walk, and then a free pass of the unintentional variety loaded the bases for Del Oro with two outs in the home half of the fifth, but John Silva played a ground ball to short to get the inning-ending force at third to retire the Eagles with no runs crossing home plate. The jam was more pronounced in the final inning of the game. With the bullpen completely dormant, and the game on his arm, Ash gave up a base hit to open the Del Oro seventh. “Tyler wanted it,” DeMello said regarding his decision to ride his starter all the way. “I wasn't looking at other options.” After Ryan Xopoleus advanced to second on a Brian Bynum chopper to shallow shortstop, Perez grounded to short and was ruled safe on a bang-bang play at first base. Ash then walked Cooper Johnson to cram the bases once more, this time with just one out, bringing up Cargile. The batter who had the best swings of the day against Ash was unable to deliver this time as he rolled back to the pitcher, leading to a force at the plate for the second out of the inning. Josh Akin lifted a line drive to center field that was snared by Smith for the game’s final out, and the Tigers had survived for one more shot at a postseason berth. Magleby banged out two hits for Del Oro and Blaser had two of the Tigers’ four hits, while Ash had a double for Roseville. Perez went the distance on the bump for Del Oro, allowing just the four hits and striking out seven, as Ash tossed seven strong stanzas with six punch-outs. Roseville (8-9 in the SFL, 13-13 overall) will be back in Loomis today to face Del Oro (8-9, 12-11-1) in one final winner-take-all battle for a spot in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs. The winner will move on to take on Metro League champion Rosemont next Friday (May 21) at 5 p.m. at Sac City College. “Thursday’s game all depends on if we do the little things right,” DeMello said. “If we have energy in the dugout we will be fine.”