By Jeremy Balan
Washington High School kept its hopes for a repeat AAA championship alive by squeaking into the final spot of the playoffs with a 6-4 win over Lincoln High School in a play-in game on Monday at Big Rec.
Washington (20-10, 9-5) and Lincoln (11-11, 9-5) played the game because they were tied for the fourth and final playoff spot in the AAA’s A Division (Balboa was also tied, but due to a drawing, was awarded third place).
The Eagles collected only seven hits, all singles, but moved baserunners at-will with an aggressive strategy that amounted to five stolen bases.
“If we’re getting on base, it gives us a chance to score,” said Washington Head Coach Rob Fung. “Do I have the right formula? I don’t think I do. Whatever we get, I can’t explain it.”
Washington also capitalized on four Lincoln wild pitches and a key balk call that plated the winning run.
With the score tied 4-4 with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning, Lincoln senior starting pitcher Miguel Ramos allowed two consecutive Washington batters to reach base and was subsequently pulled from the game.
Ramos was replaced by sophomore Remfel Ganal, who allowed the runners to advance to second and third with a wild pitch, then stuck out Washington shortstop Javon Phillips.
Then, facing Washington’s leadoff hitter Dane Vande Guchte, Ganal was called for a balk after he went to his mouth while on the mound and Washington’s Alex Kawano was awarded home to give the Eagles a 5-4 lead.
“It’s tough for us to end like that, but you have to live with it,” said Lincoln Head Coach Eric Calloway. “It’s tough because he’s just a kid, but that’s the rule and we’ve got to roll with it.”
Fung alerted the umpires that Ganal was going to his mouth, but they did not issue a warning.
“I saw the pitcher go to his mouth and the umpire made the call,” Fung said. “I saw it earlier in the inning and they missed it, so I alerted the umpire and he didn’t miss it again. That’s something we teach our guys not to do on the mound.”
Later in the at-bat, a wild pitch allowed Thomas Tomioka to score and cushion the Eagles’ lead at 6-4.
“We made mistakes and we’ve made mistakes all year,” Calloway said. “I told the guys they were going to catch up to us and we can’t run away from them.”
Vande Guchte started on the mound for the Eagles and pitched six innings to collect the win.
Washington Senior Gabe Morse came on in relief to pick up the save, but it wasn’t without suspense.
After retiring the first two batters in the inning, Lincoln’s Kevin Oshiro hit a double to left to bring the tying run to the plate, but Morse got Zach Nachtshiem to line out to center to hold off the threat.
Lincoln was led by senior third baseman Cale Anderson, who went 3-for-3 with two doubles and an RBI triple in the sixth inning.
“He came with it,” Calloway said of Anderson. “He can mash it. He’s been working really hard and playing phenomenal.”
Although Ramos allowed six runs through 5 1/3 innings, the Lincoln starting pitcher was the victim of several infield and seeing-eye singles.
“It’s been tough for him all season,” Calloway said of Ramos. “He’ll pound the zone and balls will drop or we’ll boot one. It’s not like he’s getting mashed on, but that’s part of the game. You have to take the hard hits with the soft ones.”
Washington advances to face Wallenberg today in the first round of the AAA playoffs. Even though Washington easily dispatched the Bulldogs 10-0 early in the season, Fung and the Eagles will not be taking them lightly.
“You never know what to expect,” Fung said. “We don’t underestimate anyone. Wallenberg is in the playoffs for the first time and they’re hungry. We still have to come out and play good baseball.”
Fung said that he still hasn’t decided on a starter for today’s game, but acknowledged that it would be either senior Jumaane Bowdry or sophomore Avery Velasco.
W – Dane Vande Guchte single to center, Javon Phillips scores.
W – Walter James infield single to shortstop, Vande Guchte scores
W – Paul Duchene sacrifice fly to center, Alex Kozakiewicz scores
L – Remfel Ganal single to left, Cale Anderson scores
L – Shawn Stein single to center, Ganal scores
W – Jumaane Bowdry single to center, Alex Kawano scores
L – Anderson triple to center, Zach Nachtshiem scores
L – Miguel Ramos single to right, Anderson scores
W – Kawano scores on balk
W – Thomas Tomioka scores on wild pitch