Every now and then, a baseball player needs a day off. It’s during those games that substitutes need to ready to contribute.
Carlmont’s bench and bullpen came through big Wednesday when the Scots hosted Sacred Heart Prep in a key Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division showdown. Backup catcher Ryan Callahan jumped-started the Scots’ two-run rally in the third, Julian Billot came off the bench to drive in a crucial insurance run in the sixth and pitcher Joe Pratt threw 4 1/3 innings of relief to pick up the win in a 3-0 victory over the Gators.
“We’re starting to play good team baseball, Early in the year, that wasn’t there,” said Carlmont manager Rich Vallero, whose team has won six of their last seven league games. “We went through a lot of growing pains. Since Fresno (where the Scots played in a spring-break tournament) we’ve come together as a group.”
Since pulling out an emotional 9-8 victory over rival Menlo April 23, Sacred Heart Prep has now lost two straight Bay Division games. Pitcher Will Johnston gave his team a chance to win, holding Carlmont to just three runs (only two earned) on six hits, but the Gators’ offense just could not come up the big hit.
The Gators had Carlmont starting pitcher Ryan Giberton on the ropes early, loading the bases in the first two innings, but came up empty. Giberton, Pratt and closer Matt Seubert held SHP to just three hits on the day.
“We’re looking for a big hit,” said SHP manager Gregg Franceschi. We’re not far (away). I think we’re getting a little impatient.”
Giberton started strong, striking out the first two batters of the game, but then he couldn’t seem to find the strike zone. Andrew Daschbach laced a two-out single up the middle before Danny Cody reached on an error. Cole March walked to load the bases, but Giberton induced Will Reilly to fly out to center to end the first-inning threat.
In the second, Charlie Boyden led off with a walk. A Kyle Johnson sacrifice bunt moved him to second, but Chris Lee flew out to center for the second out. Andrew Robinson and Johnston drew back-to-back walks to load the bases again, ending Giberton’s day.
Vallero turned to Pratt, who got a grounder on the first pitch he threw for an out to end the threat.
It was a sign of things to come as Pratt mowed down the SHP batters. He threw a five-pitch third, 10 more in the fourth, 11 in the fifth, 12 more in the sixth and three more in the seventh, allowing just two hits and striking out three before Seubert came in to shut the door to earn his first save of the year.
“[Pratt] gave us a big lift,” Vallero said. “SHP is a great program.”
With Pratt in control on the mound, it took the Carlmont offense a few innings to figure out Johnston.
“That guy (Johnston) they threw was as good as we’ve seen,” Vallero said.
Said Franceschi: “[Johnston has] been great for us all year long. He’s kept us in games, kept it close. He’s probably been our team’s MVP.”
It was Callahan, a backup catcher, who first solved Johnston and ignited a Scots’ rally in the bottom of the third. Callahan picked up the Scots’ first hit of the game, a single to left, to lead off the inning. A Nick Thompson sacrifice bunt moved courtesy runner Billot into scoring position to bring up leadoff hitter Aaron Albaum, who cracked a double into the left-center field gap for an RBI. Albaum would later end up scoring from third on a passed ball.
“[Callahan] is not foreign to being a contributor,” Vallero said. “What a way to respond. He’s a competitor. He stayed ready for an opportunity. He’s been dying to get out there and compete.”
Callahan would add a double in the fifth to be the only Scots player to finish with two hits.
In the sixth, it was Billot who came through. Normally a starter, Billot started the game on the bench and came into the game in the top of the fifth. In the bottom of the sixth, he came to the plate with Alex Pennes on second base. Pennes reached on an error and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt.
With Billot facing a 2-1 count, he crushed a Johnston offering deep into the left-field corner, staying just fair and hopping over the fence for an RBI, ground-rule double and a 3-0 Carlmont lead.
“[Billot has] started every game and he was a little upset (he wasn’t in the starting lineup),” Vallero said. “I went up to him, put my arm around his shoulder and said, ‘You might not have an impact early in the game, but there’s no reason you can’t make an impact late, so stay ready.’ He said, ‘You’re right.’
“I think we’re starting to hit our stride right now.”