Terry Bernal/Daily Journal
Mateo Jimenez gives Pacific American a 6-5 lead with this base hit in the third inning of his team’s thrilling 8-7 win over San Mateo American in the District 52 Majors tournament.
It was another Pacifica American power show, but a heck of a lot more entertaining.
San Mateo American seemed to be in control of Wednesday’s District 52 Majors third-round winners’ bracket matchup with Pacifica American at Red Morton Park. But after San Mateo jumped out to an early 5-0 lead, Pacifica rallied for eight runs in the third inning while sending 13 batters to the plate. Pacifica ultimately persevered 8-7.
With the win, Pacifica advances through the winners’ bracket to take on Belmont-Redwood Shores Saturday at 10 a.m.
For Pacifica, Wednesday’s win was a fitting birthday celebration for Mateo Jimenez. While Tuesday was Jimenez’s actual 12th birthday, he wasn’t able to enjoy a birthday party because he and his teammates were hard at work at baseball practice. So instead, Jimenez tabbed the eventual game-winning hit with a bases-loaded single in the third inning to give Pacifica its first lead of the game.
“It was huge,” Pacifica manager Steve Falk said. “Everybody has a role on the team and his role is small ball. He gets hits and plays defense. So, for him to get a hit like that, it really fired us up.”
It was slow goings for Pacifica through the opening two frames with San Mateo starter Luke Bottari setting down six of the first seven batters he faced.
But after San Mateo manager Ken Clayton was ejected from the game for using a cellphone in the dugout, the Pacifica power showed up.
“The thing that happened is Ken is calling pitches,” San Mateo interim manager Pierson Jeremiah said. “And when he went away, it threw [Bottari] out of rhythm.”
While San Mateo held a sizeable lead, no lead is safe against a Pacifica squad which has scored 54 runs and hit 16 home runs through its first three games of District 52 play. But San Mateo was riding high after scoring two runs in the second and three more in the third.
Facing Pacifica starting pitcher Elijah Ricks, Dominic Meza sparked a second-inning rally with a one-out single. Jack Hagerman followed with a two-out single. Tristan Dewing then got San Mateo on the board with an RBI double to score Meza. Hagerman later scored on a passed ball, giving San Mateo a 2-0 lead.
In the third, Kannon Clayton led off the inning with a walk. Jace Jeremiah swapped places with Clayton on a fielder’s choice. Then left-handed Petey Halpin went large with an opposite-field two-run home run to left-center. Bottari then doubled to knock Ricks out of the game. Against reliever Cruise Thompson, Bottari moved to third on a wild pitch. With two outs, Bottari scored on a strikeout-wild pitch to Justice Daly.
But Pacifica would quickly and confidently put Thompson in a position to earn the win.
Pacifica’s decisive eight-run rally started with a sharp single to right by Spencer Karalus. Then the Pacifica power showed up, as three of the next four batters went deep. Tyler Shaw launched a two-run home run to center, Thompson doubled, Ricks blasted an opposite-field two-run homer to right, and Christian Falk drove a towering bomb to center; and all of a sudden, the game was tied 5-5.
But Pacifica wasn’t done. After back-to-back walks to Andrew Harkness and Justin Turner knocked Bottari out of the game, Pacifica loaded the bases against reliever Daly. Then Jimenez delivered the go-ahead knock on the second pitch of the at-bat with a sharp RBI single to right to plate Harkness.
“All I was trying to do was look for that one pitch that I could drive,” said Jimenez, who conducted a postgame interview wearing a face full of birthday cake compliments of his teammates. “I took the first pitch, it wasn’t mine. So, I just laid back until I got that one and tried to put it in play. … It was a nice line drive. It felt good. I’ve been struggling here at the beginning of the season. So, it felt good to get that hit.”
The rally continued with Turner scoring on an RBI groundout off the bat of Shaw. Thompson followed with a two-out flare to left to score Chris Rodriguez, staking Pacifica to an 8-5 lead.
“We were a little flat in the first couple innings,” Coach Falk said. “I give [Bottari] credit. He went through the lineup once. But with this lineup, it’s hard to go through it twice.”
Once Thompson retook the mound in the fourth inning with the lead, he attacked the strike zone relentlessly.
“It felt better because once I had a little lead, it gave me a chance to just throw some strikes,” Thompson said.
Thompson worked 3 1/3 innings to earn the win, striking out four and benefitting from two double plays. The southpaw ran into trouble in the seventh though. After a walk to Tyler Moniz-Whitton, Konnor Clayton went deep with a homer to center to end Thompson’s bid to finish the game.
Christian Falk emerged to earn the save, but the right-hander certainly made things interesting. With Jace Jeremiah at the plate and Pacifica clinging to a one-run lead, Falk hung a curveball with a 2-1 count and Jeremiah tattooed it foul. The foul ball cleared the outfield fence by approximately 25 feet. But Falk bounced back to notch the strikeout on the following pitch to end it.
“We’re supposed to be getting killed … but on any given day, we can play the same as they do,” Coach Jeremiah said. “That’s what I tell [our players]. When you walk out on the field, you have a chance to win just like they do. … They came back and showed they were great players too. It was fun to watch.”
With the loss, San Mateo falls to the losers’ bracket and Saturday will take on the winner of Thursday’s elimination matchup between Alpine-West Menlo and Foster City.