By Jeremy Balan
After opening up a four-run lead in the second inning over Lowell High School, it looked like Balboa was primed to extend its undefeated run to seven games in Academic Athletic Association play.
But the Buccaneers were plagued by errors the rest of the way, allowing five unanswered and unearned runs in a 5-4 Lowell win on Wednesday at Big Rec, capped by a walk-off single from senior first baseman Edward King in the bottom of the seventh.
With the bases loaded and no outs, King drove in sophomore Josh Vaughan on a line drive to center field over a drawn-in Balboa outfield.
“In my first few at-bats, my timing wasn’t there,” said King, who was hitless in three at-bats prior to the game-winner. “I just sat back and made some adjustments. I was looking for an early fastball. Those are the easiest pitches to hit.”
Every Lowell runner that scored got on base as the result of a Balboa error, including Vaughan in the seventh inning and three consecutive batters in the fourth.
The Bucs (8-8, 6-1) totaled six errors in the game, and squandered a solid start from junior Alex Arnold, who took the complete-game loss, allowing five unearned runs.
“These kids are young, but we’ll fix the errors,” Balboa head coach Tom Pontino said. “We know Lowell is always going to battle all seven innings, so it’s up to us to execute until the end.”
While errors fueled the three-run rally in the fourth, Lowell (5-7-1, 2-1) used some creativity and savvy to knot the game up.
Down 4-2 with runners on second and third in the fourth inning, Lowell executed a suicide squeeze, but it was anything but ordinary. King, on third, broke for the plate on the pitch, and catcher Jacob Gleason got the bunt down, allowing King to score.
But Elijah Saunders, who was also breaking from second base on the pitch, didn’t stop at third. Instead, Saunders headed home as the Bucs recorded the out at first, and just beat the throw home to tie the game.
“We actually discussed it ahead of time that we were going to [have Saunders] run on the play,” said Lowell head coach John Donohue. “Elijah is fast enough that he was able to come around third base. We didn’t have to say anything.”
The Cardinals also got a game performance from junior starting pitcher Nick Tam, who retired 15 of the final 16 Balboa batters after allowing four runs (one earned) in the first two innings.
“We all struggled a little in the beginning, but we rallied back,” Tam said. “You want to go as far as you can and I made some adjustments. I was pressing a little bit early and throwing a little bit harder than I needed to.”
The left-hander struck out five in the complete-game victory and went 1-for-3 at the plate, with a triple and a run scored.
“He’s a gamer and he was right around 90 pitches heading into the seventh inning,” Donohue said. “He would not have gone in the eighth inning, but it was nice to get him a win.”
B – Eli Smoot reaches on fielder’s choice, Christian Pulusian scores
B – Alex Arnold scores on wild pitch
B – Michael Li singles, Pulusian and Gavin Chin score
L – Nick Magyari singles, Nick Tam scores
L – Elijah Saunders reaches on error, Andy Glickfeld scores
L – Jacob Gleason sacrifice bunt, Edward King and Saunders score
L – King singles, Josh Vaughan scores