Because the Peninsula Athletic League baseball schedule uses home-and-home games against one team each week, the importance of picking up a win in the opener of a two-game series is important.
“It’s absolutely huge,” said Mills manager Tony Adornetto. “Two and oh (for the week) is a bonus. Worst case is a split. I’ll take a split, but you go for 2-0.”
The Vikings will get a chance to go for the series victory against El Camino Thursday as Mills jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead on its way to a 7-5 win over the Colts Tuesday in South San Francisco.
The win keeps Mills (5-0 PAL Ocean) atop the Ocean Division standings as the last undefeated team in the division, while handing El Camino (4-1) its first league loss of the year. The Vikings did it with clutch hitting and strong pitching. They had four extra base hits — two homers and two doubles — while starting pitcher Aram Moshkounian kept the Colts off balance and pounding the ball into the ground. Moshkounian pitched into the sixth inning, allowing five runs (four earned), scattering seven hits in the process. Of the 17 outs Moshkounian recorded, 10 were groundouts.
“He competes. He’s not going to overpower guys,” Adornetto said of Moshkounian. “He locates his fastball and he throws a little knuckleball as a changeup. (When he’s right) he gets a lot of ground balls. He hides (the ball) a little, which is definitely an advantage.”
Robert Sanchez came on in relief of Moshkounian and allowed one hit over 1 1/3 innings of work to pick up the save. With runners on the corners and two outs in bottom of the sixth, Sanchez threw one pitch for a groundout to end the inning.
The Vikings didn’t wait long to put the pressure on the Colts, getting back-to-back homers in the first inning to take a 4-0 lead. With two outs in the top of the first inning, Sereno Esponilla walked and Kyle Vallans hit a ground-rule double off the top of the netting in left-center field to bring up Mike McWhirter — who jumped on the first pitch he saw, an eye-high fastball, and tomahawked it over the fence in left field for a 3-0 Mills lead.
“If [McWhirter] thinks it’s a strike, he’ll swing at it,” Adornetto said. “He thinks every pitch is a strike.”
Before anyone had a chance to catch their breath, Sean McHugh followed with a solo blast to left field as well.
“Scoring the first runs … it really helps,” said McHugh, who was 3 for 4 with three RBIs. “We don’t get to relax but settle in.”
Moshkounian cruised through the first two innings before running into trouble in the third. With one out, Harley Torres legged out an infield hit for the Colts. Steve Pastora walked and Josh Eclevea singled to load the bases. Dominic Giuliani followed and stroked a single to left that got by the leftfielder for an error that cleared the bases and cut the Vikings’ lead to 4-3.
But in a theme that played out over and over again, Mills responded right back. Each time the Colts got within a run of the Vikings, Mills would tack on another.
After El Camino’s three-run third, Mills came right back with a pair of unearned runs in the top of the fourth. With one out, Esponilla, who reached base four times with two hits and a pair of walks, doubled to left. Kyle Vallans then hit a ball off the top of the netting in center field for a long single, but Esponilla scored when the Colts could not handle the cutoff throw. With the ball rolling slowly toward the plate, Esponilla broke for home and scored, with Vallans going to second. He moved to third on a groundout and scored on a McHugh infield hit.
The Colts, again, cut the Mills lead to one, 6-5, with a pair of runs in bottom of the fifth. Evan Giacomino drew a one-out walk and went to second on a sacrifice bunt. Giuliani followed with a ground-rule double to center to drive in Giacomino. Emiliano Rios then followed with a bloop single to left to drive in Giuliani.
The Vikings reestablished its two-run lead in the top of the sixth when McHugh singled to center to drive in Esponilla for his third RBI of the game.
“The last three or four games, [McHugh] finally stopped trying to pull everything,” Adornetto said.
Adornetto said the key to the victory was his team never settling. The Vikings were always looking to add runs.
“Everytime they scored, we didn’t settle for that,” Adornetto said. “We came right back with a run. Put the pressure right back on [El Camino].”