Nathan Mollat/Daily Journal
Hillsdale’s Riki Urata rounds third and heads home during the Knights’ 11-6 win over Aragon.
When Aragon and Hillsdale teams face off against each other, it doesn’t matter where they are in the standings. It’s an intra-city rivalry that pits friend against friend.
Tuesday’s Aragon-Hillsdale baseball game took on added significance, however, as both were in a three-way tie — along with Sequoia — atop the Peninsula Athletic League’s Ocean Division standings.
The dust never really settled at Hillsdale’s blustery field, but when Knights shortstop Chandler Viera squeezed a Spencer Walling popup, it secured an 11-6 Hillsdale win.
“We didn’t mention any of that (first-place in on the line) stuff,” said Hillsdale’s first-year manager James Madison. “They were already amped enough (over the rivalry aspect of the game).”
The added emotion might have had an impact as neither starting pitcher was especially sharp but before moving to shortstop, Viera pitched five innings, allowing five runs on six hits, but struck out eight.
“I know he was really amped,” Madison said. “He started off a bit wild, but then settled in.”
Rohith Mahanty pitched the final two innings for Hillsdale, allowing one run on two hits.
Aragon starter Chad Franquez struggled even more. He didn’t make it out of the third inning before being lifted. He gave up nine runs on just three hits in 2 2/3 innings — including seven runs in the third inning. He battled his command, walking five. His defense certainly didn’t help as only five of those runs were earned as the Dons committed four errors — three in the third inning alone.
“He didn’t have his command today, but no one’s perfect,” said Aragon manager Lenny Souza. “Take away that one inning and we win the ball game.”
Aragon (5-4 PAL Ocean, 10-9 overall) jumped on Viera early, parlaying a pair of walks into two runs in the top of the first inning. Andre Perkins, who recently returned to the lineup following an injury, led off with a walk and moved to second on a Franquez sacrifice bunt. Chris Davis singled to put runners on the corners and Steven Hughes walked to load the bases with no outs.
Kevin Hahn drove in Perkins with a groundout and Davis later scored on a wild pitch, but Viera limited the damage and escaped the inning allowing the two runs.
Hillsdale (6-3, 13-6) got one run back in the bottom of the frame. Mahanty led off with a walk, went to second on a Riki Urata sacrifice bunt and scored on a Conner Wallace two-out single to center.
The Knights tied the score at 2 in the bottom of the second when Viera walked, went to second on an errant pickoff throw, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a second wild pitch.
In the third, the wheels fell off for the Dons as Hillsdale collected just three hits — all for extra bases — and sent 12 batters to the plate as the Knights scored seven times.
“We had a good approach at the plate,” Madison said. “When we needed the big hit, the big hit came.”
The uprising was aided by three Aragon errors. Wallace had the breakout hit for the Knights, as he roped a bases-loaded two-run double just over the first-base bag and down the right-field line to put Hillsdale up 4-2. Viera followed with a sacrifice fly, Brett Wetteland added a two-run, bloop single to shallow left field and Mahanty punctuated the inning with a two-run double of his own to put Hillsdale up 9-2.
“[Three] errors in an inning, you’re not going to beat a good team,” Souza said.
Aragon, to its credit, chipped away at the deficit over the next couple of innings. The Dons closed to 9-4 by scoring two runs in the fourth on RBIs from Casey Cheng and Brenden Donnelly. They got to 9-5 on the first of two Hughes home runs. Hughes would add another solo shot in the sixth inning.
“He’s been on fire, like, the last two and a half weeks,” Souza said of Hughes.
Hillsdale, however, put the game away with a two-run fifth, with Andrew Yarak drilling a two-run double off the fence in left field.
“(Our approach at the plate has been) a work in progress,” Madison said. “The guys have gotten to the point where they know what they’re looking for.”