Kyle Cambron walked off the mound with a look of disgust and Hillsdale walked off with a win, as the Knights scored a dramatic 3-2 win over Sequoia Tuesday at home under the only stretch of blue sky in San Mateo.
With the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh, Sequoia (1-2 PAL Ocean, 7-2-1 overall) stuck with its starter Cambron. The big right-hander opened the at-bat with a strike before the Cherokees ace threw four straight balls to Hillsdale junior Riki Urata to force home junior Anthony Leary with the game-winning run.
Leary sparked the rally with a leadoff infield single. On a seemingly routine groundball to third, the left-handed hitting Leary got out of the batter’s box quickly and simply outhustled the lackadaisical play of Sequoia’s infield for the knock.
“I just choked up on the bat and put a solid one down and ran like hell,” Leary said.
Then with two outs, the Sequoia infield committed a costly error that allowed Leary to advance to third. Sequoia manager Corey Uhalde opted to intentionally walk Ro Mahanty — who entered play hitting .577 — to load the bases. But the strategy backfired when Urata followed with a walk to end it.
“I thought it was probably their best hitter coming up and Kyle had been throwing strikes all day and pounding the strike zone,” Uhalde said. “I had confidence in him to be able to do that. And I think if it happened again, he would. … (I have) no reservations. … I’d probably do that 10 times out of 10.”
The loss is Cambron’s first as the senior falls to 4-1 while still managing to tab his first complete game of the year. Mahanty, the starter for Hillsdale (2-1, 6-3), departed after six innings of work with a lead but took a no-decision. Knights junior Adam Schembri ended up with the win to improve to 3-0.
“The pitching was dynamite,” Hillsdale manager James Madison said. “We knew coming in … [Cambron] was going to come in and deal. We knew what his motives were and what he wanted to do. And even knowing that, he still kept us off balance and he still pitched well.”
Heading into the bottom of the sixth, the game was deadlocked at 1-1. But shoddy defense by both teams made for a late rollercoaster ride. Hillsdale took a 2-1 lead in the sixth after Urata reached on a one-out single then advanced to second on the play by virtue of an outfield error. Sophomore Andrew Yarak followed with a long fly to left-center which Sequoia senior Liam Clifford nearly ran down, but the ball winged off his glove to go for an RBI double with Urata scoring the go-ahead run.
In the top of the seventh, with Schembri on to try to close it out for Hillsdale, Matt Lopez led off by hitting a medium deep fly to center which the Hillsdale outfielder had to drift back on, but the ball was dropped with Lopez ending up at second base. After a sacrifice bunt by Carson Parodi to move Lopez to third, senior Jarrett Crowell laced an RBI single through the middle to tie it 2-2.
But Hilldale was able to capitalize on Sequoia’s mistakes in the bottom of the inning to walk off with the win.
“Usually when you make as many mistakes as we did, you usually come out on the bottom end,” Madison said. “But we stayed tough and I’m really proud of my guys.”
Hillsdale actually set up the game-winning walk in the seventh on a base-running miscue by Leary. On the error that allowed him to advance from first to third, Madison — the third-base coach — gave him the stop sign at second base. Leary said he was watching the ball, not the coach. As a result, Leary ran right through the stop sign and ultimately found himself at third base. Without having advanced from second to third, Sequoia would not have intentionally walked Mahanty to load the bases.
The win is the second emotionally charged victory in a row for Hillsdale. The Knights came back from a 6-2 deficit to down El Camino March 20 on a late-inning home run by Conner Wallace.
“Two emotional wins, close wins in a row have taken us to dig deep and put emotion into our game and at all costs win,” Madison said.
And the pitching duel between starters Cambron and Mahanty was key in fueling the emotion of the game.
Uhalde praised Cambron’s complete-game effort after the loss.
“He’s been great,” Uhalde said. “We couldn’t ask for anything more of him. Every single game he’s thrown this year, and last year, he’s given us a chance to win. That’s all we could ever ask of him. And he absolutely did that today.”
For Mahanty, who has been stellar on both sides of the ball all season with the exception of his March 18 loss last week to El Camino, he continues to demonstrate the heart of a lion who has shown a propensity to compete to the level of the opposition — even when the opposition is one of this year’s elite arms in the Peninsula Athletic League.
“This team is the same way,” Madison said. “When they’re facing a big name who they know is primetime, they really step up. And that’s what happened today.”