Terry Bernal/Daily Journal
Capuchino catcher Ramon Enriquez tags out Sequoia’s Chris Ortiz during the Cherokees’ 5-4 win over the Mustangs in a key PAL Ocean
Division game Thursday afternoon in San Bruno.
Sequoia knew it had a top-heavy schedule in opening Peninisula Athletic League Ocean Division play against its three biggest contenders in the first four weeks.
And after starting the year 1-3 in league, including a sweep against a dangerous Hillsdale squad, things weren’t looking so good for the Cherokees.
Oh, how the tide has turned.
With a 5-4 win at Capuchino Thursday, second-place Sequoia (5-3 in Ocean Division, 11-3-1 overall) has won four straight to catapult into second place. Paired with first-place Hillsdale’s 7-0 loss to Kings Academy Thursday, the Cherokees now trail the Knights by mere percentage points in the Ocean Division race.
Before embarking on the four-game winning streak, Sequoia manager Corey Uhalde gave a motivational speech telling his players to look to the future. It turned out to be one effective speech.
“I told them the narrative of the story has yet to be written,” Uhalde said. “It’s going to be about how you bounce back from [opening league play 1-3]. I thought if we came out of these two weeks at 3-1 it would be a pretty good showing. So, to get two from El Camino and now two from Cap … I would describe the feeling as relief.”
After rattling off a pair of shutouts against El Camino then a third consecutive shutout with a 4-0 win over Capuchino (3-3, 13-6) Tuesday, the Cherokees had to grind out a comeback win Thursday.
Sequoia ultimately won the game on the would-be third out of the sixth inning. Facing Mustangs reliever Antonio Martinucci with two on and two out, Liam Clifford struck out but advanced to first on a wild pitch. On the play, Tommy Lopiparo raced home from third to give the Cherokees a 5-4 lead.
“We’ve been resilient with two outs all year,” Lopiparo said. “We knew two runs wasn’t too much and we could come back from that.”
Sequoia senior Kenney Belanger earned the win in relief to improve to 3-1. Martinucci took the loss, dropping the junior right-hander to 3-2.
The Cherokees jumped out to a 2-0 lead early with single runs in the third and fourth. In the third, Liam Finn got things started with a leadoff single. He moved to second on a single by Matt Lopez and the two advanced on a balk by Capuchino starter Joe Galea. Lopez then scored on a wild pitch to give Sequoia a 1-0 lead.
In the fourth, Sequoia junior Antonio Arellano singled to start the inning. Gonzalo Rodriguez followed with a long double to left-center, allowing Arellano to score all the way from first base to stake the Cherokees to a 2-0 lead.
But Capuchino went large in the bottom of the fourth. Facing Sequoia starting pitcher Cameron Greenough, Anthony Orcholski got things started with a double to right. Samuel Caliz followed with a sacrifice bunt attempt that went for an infield single, moving Orcholski to third. With one out, Riley Gibbons reached on an infield error, allowing Orcholski to score. With two outs, Kyle Patterson was hit by a pitch to load the bases and ending Greenough’s afternoon. With Belanger on in relief, Rory McDaid greeted the senior right-hander with a bases-clearing double to give Cap a 4-2 lead.
But Sequoia answered right back in a two-run fifth. Lopez started the rally with a one-out walk. After a single by Clifford put runners at first and second, cleanup hitter Zane Gelphman drove a double to left-center to score Lopez and Clifford to tie it 4-4.
In the top of the sixth, the junior Lopiparo — just into the game as a late-inning replacement — reached base as the eventual winning run with a booming triple to left. Chris Ortiz reached on a hit by pitch then stole second. After Lopiparo scored on the strikeout-wild pitch, Ortiz also tried to score on an ensuing wild pitch but was throw out on a bang-bang play at the plate.
Cap looked to tie it up in the bottom of the sixth. After a one-out single by Galea, Ramon Enriquez drove a double to left-center that would have scored Galea easily. But the ball carried to the paved walkway in deep left field for a ground-rule double, forcing Galea to remain at third base. Cap went on to strand the would-be tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position.
“It’s always tough (to lose), especially when you’re playing good baseball,” Capuchino manager Matt Wilson said. “Today we actually played good ball except for a couple mistakes.”
At 13-6 overall, Cap owns the most wins of any team throughout the PAL. Sequoia has won at a better rate than any team in the PAL with a .767 winning percentage.
Terry Bernal can be reached by phone at 344-5200 ext. 109 or by email: email@example.com. You can read his blog at FungoLingo.wordpress.com.