Baseball is a sport where one swing of the bat can change the trajectory of a game.
Wednesday was one of those games.
Aragon starting pitcher Ty Barrango had shut down the Burlingame bat through the first four innings and thanks to a pair of Jace Jeremiah solo home runs, was pitching with a 2-0 lead in the semifinals of the Central Coast Section Division III bracket in San Mateo.
In the top of the fifth, however, the Dons opened the door and the Panthers kicked it in. Jonny Suarez’s three-run laser shot to left swung the momentum into the Burlingame dugout, which they carried to an 8-2 win and a spot in Saturday’s championship game.
“We were due,” said Suarez, the Panthers second baseman. “That definitely helped the momentum shift.”
Burlingame (17-9), the sixth seed, will play at No. 4 Los Altos (14-11) at 3 p.m. Saturday. The Eagles shut out No. 8 Santa Cruz, 12-0, in the other semifinal.
For the first four innings, it looked like Aragon, the No. 2 seed, would be hosting the championship game. Burlingame could not muster much through the first four innings against Barrango, who opened the fifth by inducing a groundout.
Then the wheels fell off.
Back-to-back errors gave the Panthers some life and they had runners at the corners when Suarez came to the plate. He jumped on the first pitch, yanking it down the left-field line and over the fence to give Burlingame a 3-2 lead.
“Fastball, middle in,” Suarez said. “I was looking to ambush. Two on, two outs. I needed to get something going.”
That bolt instantly perked up the Burlingame dugout and the rest of the batting order fed off the energy. Dexter Quisol came up three batters later and roped a two-run double to the gap in right-center field for a 5-2 Burlingame advantage. Jake Caprini capped the rally with a run-scoring single to right.
All told, the Panthers collected five hits in the inning and sent 11 batters to the plate.
“Burlingame did a great job,” said Aragon manager Lenny Souza. “They took advantage of mistakes. … They were uncharacteristic mistakes. That’s the hardest part to deal with.”
A six-run swing was more than enough for Burlingame starter Noah Larkin, who was also dealing. He had limited Aragon to just two hits through the first four innings and yet still found himself trailing 2-0.
Both the hits allowed were Jeremiah jacks. Neither was a particularly bad offering from Larkin. It was more a testament to Jeremiah’s prowess with a bat in hands than it was a bad pitch.
“He’s a good hitter,” Larkin said.
Jeremiah’s first in the bottom of the first gave Aragon a quick 1-0 lead and he did it again in the fourth with both going to the right-center field power alley.
Despite the two blasts, Larkin was not concerned.
“Two runs is nothing for our team. They’ve been hitting for us (pitchers) all year,” Larkin said. “I felt good with my curveball. Felt good with my command. I just let my fielders do the work.”
Whether ahead or behind, Larkin just pitched — and he pitched just as well with or without the lead. He would go on to fire a complete game, allowing the two runs on just four hits. He struck out eight.
To highlight his dominance: he threw a total of 11 pitches in the fifth and sixth inning, combined.
“Larkin pitched really well,” Souza said. “Ty did his job. … We let him down on a couple plays.”
Burlingame rounded out the scoring with two more runs in the top of the sixth. With one out, Keunho Kim singled to center and came around to score on a Suarez double. Taylor Kaufman’s sacrifice fly accounted for the final run of the game.
Suarez said it was “super important” to add those extra runs.
“We’ve had games in the past where we’re up … and then we’d quit scoring and the other team creeps back in.”