Terry Bernal/Daily Journal
Sean Walsh laces an RBI double in the seventh inning, starting a five-run comeback rally in San Carlos Joe DiMaggio’s 10-7 win over South City.
Sunday was a weird, wild day for San Carlos Joe DiMaggio’s Julian Billot.
Billot saw his first pitching start of the season implode during the third inning against South City at Orange Park. The right-hander issued two walks and three hit batsmen in the inning to open the door for a six-run South City rally.
But San Carlos’ offense wasn’t about to let its undefeated record go by the wayside. Entering into its final at-bat trailing by two runs, San Carlos sent nine batters to plate amid a five-run rally to roll to a dramatic 10-7 come-from-behind victory.
While Billot paced San Carlos with a 4-for-5 day in the leadoff spot, he gave credit to his teammates — especially the heart of the San Carlos batting order, which started the seventh-inning comeback — for getting him off the hook for the loss.
“I knew our [No. 3, 4 and 5] guys were coming up, so I know we always have a shot when those big guys come up,” Billot said. “Our whole team stepped up today. It was a team effort. Everybody contributed. … On the mound, we can kind of forget about that, but my teammates picked me up big time. They saved me.”
Ten minutes prior to the 11 a.m. start time, San Carlos didn’t even have enough players in its dugout to field a team. Ultimately, nine players showed, though among the six who didn’t were the team’s best position player Brad Degnan and its ace pitcher Joe Pratt. Yet San Carlos’ fighting nine proved enough to improve the team’s record to 7-0 of the season.
South City (4-4) was missing one key player as well with the absence of closer Mike Keegan. Ordinarily, the right-hander would have been tasked with protecting a two-run lead in the seventh. Instead, South City manager Jerrod McGrew turned to right-hander Mike Espino, who took the loss.
Espino was on the verge of getting his team back into the dugout with the game tied 7-7. But with San Carlos’ Alex Pennes on third and two outs, Jesse Austin hit a shallow pop-up which saw right fielder James Felix have the ball jarred from his glove when he collided with second baseman Marvin Vargas, allowing the go-ahead run to waltz across and extended the inning.
“Because we’re young, we’re making the routine plays a little bit harder than they need to be,” McGrew said. “It’s baseball, right? Play catch and that should get you the game. But it doesn’t always work that way.”
Derek Azzopardi started the five-run rally by drawing a leadoff walk. Cleanup hitter Sean Walsh followed with a booming RBI double to left to score Azzopardi. Pennes then jumped on the first pitch he saw, scorching an RBI single to left field to score Walsh with the tying run, with Pennes advancing to second on the throw home. Antonio Arellano sacrificed Pennes to third. Then with two outs, Pennes plated on the critical South City error off the bat of Austin.
The rally continued with a single by Conner Sick before Billot produced a two-run single to score a pair of insurance runs.
“We got lucky,” San Carlos manager Brian Rumsey said. “[The inning] came around when we had all our good hitters up.”
The game was clearly destined to be a weird and wild one after South City starting pitcher Dante Ordonez broke two San Carlos bats in the first inning. It seemed perfectly normal when Diego Arellano’s wood bat blew up on the sixth pitch of the game. But three batters later, Pennes’ composite bat exploded on a groundout to second base to end the inning.
“I’ve seen them break,” McGrew said. “But I can honestly say, in all the years I’ve played baseball, I don’t think I’ve ever seen two.”
But San Carlos found the sweet spot in the third inning to break a scoreless tie. Sick and Billot led off the frame with back-to-back singles, setting the stage for Azzopardi’s first home run of the season to stake San Carlos to a 3-0 lead.
South City answered with its biggest single-inning rally of the season though. Vargas drew a leadoff walk followed by a Dom Giuliani single. Then three consecutive batters — Emiliano Rios, Marcus Roman and Everado Valdez — were hit by pitches, the latter two forcing home runs. Danny Ruiz followed with a four-pitch walk to push Rios across with the tying run, knocking Billot out of the game.
“He was cruising through two and then he just kind of fell apart,” Rumsey said. “Even when I went out there he said, ‘I’ve never had that happen to me.’ Just all of a sudden, he lost it.”
South City greeted reliever Walsh with back-to-back clutch hits. Ricardo Pagan blooped the first pitch he saw to left for an RBI single. Felix then drilled a two-run double to right to give South City a 6-3 lead, with all six runs being charged to Billot.
In the fifth, San Carlos closed to within one run with a pair of two-out extra-base hits. Sick reached on an infield error to lead off the inning. With two outs, Azzopardi split the left-center gap with an RBI triple. Walsh followed with a double to right-center to cut South City’s lead to 6-5.
South City manufactured a run in the bottom of the frame. Pagan reached on an error and moved to third on an infield single by Felix. Then Vargas smashed an RBI single to center to score Pagan, giving South City a 7-5 lead.
Azzopardi was 2 for 2 with four RBIs in the game. He is currently hitting .429 (6 for 14) on the season. He also picked up the win by closing out the game with 1 1/3 innings of shutout relief.