By Jeremy Balan
Hits weren’t plentiful in the Academic Athletic Association play-in game between Burton High School and Mission on Monday at Silver Terrace Playground, so the Pumas had to get creative.
Trailing 1-0 with just one hit through three innings, Burton right fielder Thomas Tsang worked a walk, stole second base and advanced to third on a wild pitch.
Then Burton’s No. 4 hitter, Austin Perez, put a picture-perfect bunt single down the third-base line to score Tsang and shift the momentum in a 6-2 Burton win, which gives the Pumas their first playoff berth since 2008.
“He missed on the first [bunt in the second inning] and I told him he needed to get the second one,” said Burton head coach Mike Abbott. “They were playing him back and he’s our cleanup hitter, but he can also do that. We needed the run and we made sure we got it.”
Three batters later, Perez scored on a wild pitch to give the Pumas a 2-1 lead they would not relinquish.
Burton, the second seed out of the AAA’s B Division, will take on Balboa in the first round of the San Francisco Section playoffs on Tuesday. The play-in game was necessary because the two teams tied for second in the B Division at 7-8.
The Pumas added on two runs in the fifth inning and two more in the sixth on a two-out, two-RBI single by Peter Chau to support a standout pitching performance from junior Hung Dam.
Dam allowed just two hits and two unearned runs, and struck out six Bears in six innings. The left-hander only threw 86 pitches before being removed with no outs in the top of the seventh, after he allowed the first two Mission hitters to reach base with a 6-2 lead.
“He doesn’t have much baseball experience, but we taught him how to throw over to first and throw strikes, and that gets you a long way,” Abbott said. “He was really efficient and we tried to let him finish it up, but he pitched a great game.”
Senior Randy Mai came on in relief and picked up the save by retiring all three batters he faced.
Abbott still hasn’t decided whether Mai will pitch against Balboa, mostly because he is just as valuable as a sure-fielding shortstop.
“He’s probably our No. 1 pitcher, but he makes things a lot easier in the field,” Abbott said. “We’re still determining [whether he will pitch tomorrow]. Balboa is going to hit the ball and I’d like to have him catching it, but our No. 3 [pitcher] Thomas can keep the ball down and stay in the zone.”
The loss knocks Mission out of the postseason for the first time since 2007, but first-year head coach Jeffrey Stancil doesn’t think the Bears will be absent for long.
“We have a lot of good, committed kids coming back and that’s the most important thing,” Stancil said. “If you have committed guys, you can go a long way in baseball.”
M – Jesse Stein scores on a throwing error
B – Austin Perez singles, Thomas Tsang scores
B – Perez scores on a wild pitch
B – Peter Chau reaches on a fielder’s choice, Hector Sanchez scores
B – Jafet Sabucadalau walks, Tsang scores
M – Demitrius Thibeaux scores on a throwing error
B – Chau singles, Edward Mendoza and Randy Mai score