Crusader baseball tips Southridge in 1-0 thriller
The games that go bizarre, Jesuit somehow finds a way to come out on top of.
Against Southridge on Thursday, Jesuit's Mick Abel walked and took second on a wild pitch from Cam Carlson in the top of the fifth with the score tied at 0-0. Carlson came back by striking out Ethan Wilson, but the third strike was dropped. Normally such a play results in an easy out at first, no harm, no foul.
But on Jesuit's rain-soaked turf, with a slick baseball in play, Southridge's catcher slipped trying to get Wilson out at the bag. The ensuing heave to first sailed high over the infield into foul ground, which allowed Abel to score from second to go up 1-0.
It was an unconventional way to scratch across a run, but not if you're Jesuit. The Crusaders specialize in winning the outlying contests, primarily because of their focus on the margins of the game, in consistently doing the habitual small tasks and details that lead to larger success.
And in a pitcher's duel between Carlson and Jesuit junior Trey Werner, that lone score was enough as the Crusaders avoided any damage from a bases-loaded jam in the seventh and swept Southridge 1-0 at Jesuit High School.
When Westview went against the grain in the Class 6A semifinals two years ago and brought Kenyon Yovan out of the bullpen late in the game, Jesuit didn't bow but handled its business accordingly.
A year ago Beaverton went up 6-0 against the Crusaders, only to have Jesuit tie the game up before darkness halted play. Two days later Jesuit completed the comeback with a walk-off homer.
When a created opportunity meets its preparation, Jesuit capitalizes. They're prepared for chaos and trained for the unorthodox situation.
"Our team prides itself on doing the small stuff right," Werner said. "We do the small stuff first instead of trying to end a game with one swing. It's team ball, so you just have to do your job. That worked for us tonight. I thought we were going to bust it open after that...but that's baseball."
Jesuit had just three hits and Southridge only had four. The Skyhawks had a double in the fourth and seventh inning, the latter of which put the tying run in scoring position with just one out, but couldn't cash in. Each double would've been a home run in any other local area high school park. But because Jesuit is required to put up a towering protective net around its outfield in order to prevent fly balls from reaching the nearby neighborhood behind the field, Southridge was left with a pair of doubles, not solo home runs.
"I thought we battled, especially in the last inning, but it's baseball, 1-0 losses happen, but it's a heartbreaking loss for sure" Southridge shortstop Connor Fajardo said. "We can make excuses, but the bottom line is we have to better. We have to hit more. Not every run is going to come hitting the ball over the net every single time. We have to manufacture more runs, get more guys on base, have quality at-bats, have more guys touch home plate than the other team."
Werner was outstanding on the bump, striking out 10 Skyhawks in five innings of work before handing the ball over to Wilson in the sixth. The junior righty was locked in from the first pitch, pumping fastballs and sliders at the Skyhawk hitters, sitting guys down with a fast pace on the mound. After admittedly getting bounced around a bit against Beaverton last week, lasting just two innings, Werner said he got back to basics, turning to the daily drills he did over the winter to get his mechanics back in order and running smoothly again.
"I got my confidence back," Werner said with a smile. "When I find my groove I use that momentum and try to keep that rhythm going. I get into a routine to keep myself engaged and focused on only throwing strikes. I did that pretty well today."
Carlson was equally effective, throwing six exceptional innings with just the one unearned allowed in the hard-luck loss. The junior righty punched out nine hitters and allowed just two hits and four walks. Each hurler gave their team a real shot at victory, both dealing a whole lot of nasty offerings while being strongly backed their defenses behind them.
"Cam has been fantastic all year," Fajardo said. "He's taken a huge step up since last year. He competes. He's a bulldog on the mound. He doesn't have the fastest stuff or the nastiest curve, but I know for a fact I can look at him and know he's gonna compete with me and the rest of these guys. He doesn't accept a loss, he doesn't accept failure. Jesuit is a tough ball club and he basically shut them out."
Fajardo made a superb leaping snare to rob James Porter of a base hit in the fifth. Centerfielder Hayden Jenkins ran down a deep fly ball and tracked it into his glove in the fourth. Just a day after both teams combined for eight errors in a wicked ugly Mother Nature-laced affair, Southridge's slip-up in the fifth, was the only blunder albeit a costly one. That aside, Southridge made some huge strides against a Crusader club that's now 5-1 in Metro and considered one of the conference's top threats to take the league crown.
"This is a fighting ball club," Fajardo said. "People like to say we're soft, but I know we're going to come together in the locker room, get in the (batting cages) more often and keep competing."
Werner was subbed out for Wilson in the sixth, who sat down the side in order in the sixth. In the seventh, after a one-out Southridge double and a walk, Southridge sophomore speedster Darik Salinas was inserted in the game as a pinch-runner with Fajardo at the dish. After Wilson threw a pitch into the dirt, Salinas tried to take third, but Jesuit catcher Joe Angeli collected himself, gathered the ball and fired a rope to Kevin Blair at third to nab the Skyhawk sophomore.
Still, Fajardo walked and so did Jenkins with two outs to load the bases. With the tying run on third and winning run on second, Wilson and Joe Ball waged a mini-war at the dish that ran to a 2-2 count. With the southpaw-swinging Ball looking for something to drive, Wilson unleashed a hellacious slider that cut across the plate and landed just above Ball's knees in the strike zone without a swing for the backwards, game-icing strikeout.
"That pitch was gross," Werner said with a smile. "It froze (Ball) and stood him up. (Wilson) has been progressively getting a lot better, hitting his spots, having some movement on his off-speeds. He's only a sophomore, so he has a ton of potential."
Abel walked twice and had a single as Jesuit's designated hitter.
Jesuit is 9-3 overall and won eight of its last nine. The Crusaders are No. 6 in the 6A power rankings with series against Liberty and Century coming up. Southridge is 6-8 overall and 1-5 in Metro. The Skyhawks face Liberty and Glencoe in their next two sets.