Nathan Mollat/Daily Journal
Aragon third baseman tags out King’s Academy’s Michael Svozil, who was trying stretch a double into a triple during the Dons’ 4-3 victory.
Despite managing only four hits, The King’s Academy baseball team had the tying run at third base in its Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division game against Aragon in San Mateo Thursday afternoon.
But Aragon reliever Chris Davis stranded Dante Poleselli on third by striking out the Knights’ cleanup hitter to preserve a 4-3 Aragon victory.
“Any time you can get a league win, you’re happy,” said Aragon manager Lenny Souza. “But I’d be lying to you if I said we played our best game.”
It was a game in which Aragon (2-2 PAL Ocean, 7-4 overall) seemed to have firmly in control, but the Dons never enjoyed more than a two-run lead. The Dons rapped out nine hits — including a Chad Franquez solo shot leading off the bottom of the first inning — but they could never put King’s Academy (1-3, 4-8) away.
“[The lead] felt bigger than it was,” Souza said. “There were a lot of things that looked like we were going to open it up.”
In addition to his home run, Franquez was nails on the mound, pitching six innings of three-hit ball. He struck out five, but walked three and hit three other batters.
After a 14-pitch first inning, Franquez threw only 14 pitches in the second and third innings, combined. He ran into problems in the fourth and sixth innings, but left after six innings with the lead.
“He was amazing,” Souza said. “He was ahead of hitters.”
And when Franquez led off the Dons’ first at-bat with a bomb to right field, it appeared Aragon was destined for an easy victory.
But the Knights just would not go away.
“We’ve competed all year long,” said King’s Academy manager Andrew Simon. “We’re a team that doesn’t quit. We just came up a little short.”
The Dons had a chance to extend their 1-0 lead in the second inning, but ran out of a scoring chance. They did, however, double their lead in the bottom of the third inning. Davis singled to left and moved to second on an errant pick-off attempt that sailed out of bounds. Andy Guzman followed and reached on an error, with Davis taking third.
Following a flyout, Brennan Carey came to the plate and, during his at-bat, Guzman broke for second and stopped when he drew the throw from the catcher. That enabled Davis to score from third on a delayed double steal to put the Dons up 2-0.
King’s Academy responded by scoring twice in the top of the fourth, utilizing its speed. The Knights scored both their runs in the frame without benefit of a hit, but they did steal three bags — three of their seven for the game — had two hit batters and made the Dons pay for their error.
“We like running,” Simon said. “We’re not going to be able to hit very many three-run homers. What it comes down to is, we just want to win.”
Michael Svozil — who was 2 for 2 with a double, a walk and a run scored — led off the inning with a walk and went to second when John Antonicic was hit by a pitch. Both runners moved up 90 feet on steals and Svozil came home when Matter Peterson hit into a fielder’s choice, reaching first ahead of an Aragon double-play attempt. The Knights’ second run of the inning scored on an error and just like that, the scored was tied at 2.
Aragon, however, took the lead right back in the bottom of the inning. Spencer Walling walked to lead off the inning. Brenden Donnelly followed and put down a sacrifice bunt that the Knights couldn’t handle and the Dons were in business with runners on first and second with no outs.
The Dons caught a break when it appeared Walling was picked off second, but the umpire ruled the King’s Academy shortstop had prevented Walling from getting back to second and he was awarded third. Donnelly then stole second to put runners on second and third with one out.
Franquez was intentionally walked to load the bases and Kevin Hahn made the Knights pay with a sharp RBI single to right field to drive in Walling. Davis followed and hit into a fielder’s choice, driving in Donnelly for the second run of the inning and a 4-2 Aragon lead.
Then the Aragon defense took center stage. With two outs in the top of the fifth, Svozil launched a drive to deep left-center field. The fleet-footed Svozil streaked around first and headed into second when Simon threw up the stop sign. Svozil either didn’t see it or ignored it altogether and headed to third.
That was a mistake. From deep in the outfield, Hughes gunned a strike to Davis at third, who was waiting for Svozil. He tried to head back to second but Davis tagged him out to end the inning.
“Steve Hughes’ throw to third base was probably the play of the year,” Souza said. “He’s made a couple throws like that (this season).”
With King’s Academy threatening in the top of the sixth, Franquez picked off a runner at first and then struck out the batter to end the inning.
Davis struggled a bit in the seventh, giving up a run on a Poleselli single, but he stuck out the final two batters to end the game.
“We brought a different attitude into today and it helped,” Souza said. “I think we can be pretty damn good.”