Two years ago, the Capuchino Mustangs made their mark as the comeback kids.
The reputation was born from Cap’s back-to-back walk-off wins against Pioneer and Fremont. Now, sophomore Tyler Firpo has got the Mustangs back on track with their comeback ways.
Firpo delivered the game-winning single in Saturday’s 4-3 Mustangs victory. The opponent? None other than Cap’s archrival Mills, making it the most memorable walk-off win in recent memory, and the first in manager Matt Wilson’s 18 years at the helm.
“It’s cool,” Wilson said. “It’s always good when you play against Mills and get a win.”
The 10 a.m. start was an excruciating test for the Mustangs, who played a late game the night before with a 7-2 loss to Pioneer under the lights at San Bruno Park. Firpo was one of the lucky ones. Living across the street from San Bruno Park, he got home just before 10 p.m.
Twelve hours later, the sophomore was back at the yard.
“I was a little tired but I was excited because it was against Mills,” Firpo said.
Saturday’s game was at a different yard though, as the Mustangs moved to their main field at Capuchino High School. It was a tall order to make the muddied field playable. The natural grass had been problematic earlier in the week, causing the Mills showdown — originally scheduled for the previous Saturday — to be postponed.
Come game time Saturday, the infield at Cap was in good shape. The outfield, however, was a mess, especially in right-center field where any ball hit there would stick cold in the mud. Firpo, once again, was one of the lucky ones, as the outfielder was playing the opposite side of the outfield in left.
“It’s perfect in left,” Firpo said. “Just, in right, it’s a little muddy.”
So, when Firpo came up to bat in the bottom of the seventh inning, it was helpful he served the game-winning hit into the danger zone in right field. As soon as he saw the line drive an outside fastball off Mills starting pitcher Rion Leung get down, he was confident junior Jason Arsenault was going to score from second base.
“Especially the mud over there, the ball just died,” Firpo said. “Our coach waved him in … and I just knew it was over.”
It was slow goings through the first five innings of play though. Mills jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the top of the fifth. A deficit to the Vikings is unfamiliar territory for Cap in recent years. The Mustangs haven’t lost to their rival since 2014 and have now won five straight in heads-up play. The past two years, Cap has blasted Mills by a cumulative score of 24-0.
The handicap of the early 10 a.m. start time slowed Cap through the early innings. Starting pitcher Oliver Otake was solid in his first varsity start, and ultimately matched Leung’s endurance, as both recorded complete games.
The Cap bats, though, took some time to wake up.
“It was kind of brutal,” Wilson said. “So, I think they started to wake up in the fifth inning.”
Cruise Thompson was the first Cap batter to wake up. He got the Mustangs on the board with a fourth-inning RBI, cutting a Mills lead to 2-1. But the Vikings got the run right back in the top of the fifth. So, the Mustangs went to work in the bottom of the sixth.
Thompson, Cap’s leading hitter — batting .516 (16 for 31) on the year — sparked the game-tying rally with a bunt single. After moving to third on an errant pickoff throw, the senior scored on a sacrifice fly by senior David Balague. Kenny Osterlund later tied it with an RBI single.
“We were excited,” Firpo said of tying the game 3-3. “We were really pumped. We wanted the game really badly at that point.”
Then, after Otake posted a zero in the top of the seventh, Cap rallied for the comeback win. Arsenault led off with a single. Then sophomore Conor Meehan played small ball with a sacrifice bunt to move Arsenault into scoring position.
Firpo — who had just five hits on the year prior to his last at-bat, and had popped the ball up in two previous plate appearances Saturday — then proved the hero, and again making the Mustangs the comeback kids.
“It was crazy,” Firpo said of his teammates storming out of the dugout to celebrate the walk-off near first base. “I turn around and see all my teammates running at me. It was great energy. It was amazing.”