On Friday afternoon, April 27th, two of South Orange County high school baseball teams went head-to-head during the final weeks of the 2012 season in search of playoff berths. Although home team Tesoro High School may have had the advantage of a few extra fans in the capacity-filled stadium, San Clemente kept those in attendance at the edge of the seats throughout the tightly-contested game. Tesoro senior starting pitcher
Evan Cook, a lefty blessed with a twist of deception, was put to the test early and threw under pressure nearly every inning. With bases loaded and two outs in the first inning, the slender Cook caught San Clemente batter Jesus Saldana off-balance when the stocky Triton catcher tapped a comebacker to the mound. Cook fielded the ball cleanly and had plenty of time to throw Saldana out at first to end the inning. Once again in the second with men in scoring position and two out, the crafty left-hander got San Clemente leadoff hitter Trevor Sealy to fly out to center to spoil another Triton scoring threat. San Clemente pitcher Braden Riddle, as he has done most season against opponents, was out to compete and keep Tesoro batters at bay.
San Clemente’s defensive prowess was apparent throughout the game. In the bottom of the second with men on first and second with one out, Triton Head Coach David Gellatly went out to the mound to meet with Riddle and the infield for a roundtable chat. Gellatly recalled, “When I went out to the mound in the bottom of the second, I was making sure our defense knew what we were trying to accomplish with our bunt coverage. Knowing it was probably going to be a one run game, I was making sure that we were not just going to take the out at first base. Instead, we were attempting to get the lead runner at
third, which we successfully accomplished. That was a huge play.”
Exactly as scripted, when Tesoro Titan Brad Justl laid down a sacrifice bunt, Riddle followed his coach’s directive and threw out the runner at third for the force out. Then Tesoro batter Riley Greenlee hit a ball down the left field line just out of reach of the third baseman. With the speedy Brandon VerWayne on second being waved home for the score, San Clemente left fielder Shane Elias-Calles threw a bullet to catcher Jesus Saldana, who applied the tag on the baserunner to end the inning and silence Titan fans.
Gellatly commented, “On the play where Shane threw out the Tesoro runner, again it was a huge play for us. With two outs, Coach Brail had to force our defense to make the play, and we were successful.” Despite being dominant on the hill, San Clemente pitcher Braden Riddle lost control of the game in the bottom of the third when Titan Brett Halasz was hit by a pitch. With a free pass issued to first, Riddle was vulnerable to Tesoro senior Kevin Co, who drilled a drive in the gap between left and center field deep enough for Halasz to score from first and give Tesoro a 1-0 lead. Trying to stretch out a stand up RBI double into a triple and challenge the arm of center fielder Dan Caresio,
Kevin Co fell victim to the promising junior’s on-the-money throw to third.
San Clemente Coach Gellatly was proud of his outstanding juniors’ performances and said, “Outfielders Shane Elias-Calles and Dan Caresio are both very good defensive players with strong arms. They are developing into team leaders both on and off-the-field. I believe they will make huge contributions to our team’s success next year. I really like the idea of Dan and Shane at the top of the line-up next year.” San Clemente looked to take possession of the game in the top of the sixth with men on first and second with no out. After it appeared that Titan pitcher Evan Cook was appearing to get weary, Tesoro Head Coach Rick Brail went out to the mound and had a meeting with his ace starter. Brail said, “I wanted to make sure he was feeling good and we discussed how to pitch to the next hitter. He was very confident.” San Clemente hitter Dillon Fetty put down a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt to advance the runners into scoring position. The pressure was on the Triton’s best hitter, Chad Foster (.389 batting average), to put his team on top. Foster made good contact with a fastball, and the sound off his bat spelled trouble for Tesoro. However, the line drive shot off his bat was right at shortstop Brett Halasz, who caught the ball for out number two. Thinking quickly on his feet and reacting like a pro, Halasz threw the ball to third baseman Riley Greenlee, who tagged out Triton baserunner Julian Perry off the bag for a double play to end San Clemente’s scoring hopes. Tesoro was jubilant after the 1-0 victory over San Clemente. Tesoro Coach Brail explained, “We felt good. San Clemente is a good team, and anytime you can win two out three games against a league opponent….it feels good.” Coach Brail rounded up the team for a post-game discussion after the win and told his players, “Enjoy the moment….and take pride in the fact that all your hard work is paying off. But our season is not over and we’re back to work next week.”
San Clemente Coach Gellatly praised his starting pitcher and said, “Braden Riddle is a four-year letterman who did show great competitiveness and leadership against Tesoro. He has the ability to carry the team on his shoulders from the pitchers’ mound. Unfortunately, we couldn’t score any runs for him.” Despite the loss, Titon skipper Gellatly remained upbeat and commented, “As the season winds down, we have some tough ballgames ahead of us. We still have work to do to qualify for the playoffs. However, if Riddle and Danny Atkinson can continue pitching the way both of them did last week, we should have a great chance of getting in. If we do happen to qualify, you never know what can happen in a single elimination tournament.” With an impressive 1.23 ERA, San Clemente junior standout pitcher Danny Atkinson held Top 5 state ranked South Coast League favorite El Toro to just one run yesterday as the Tritons upset the Chargers 6-1. Improving the team’s overall record to 14-11. San Clemente’s chances of making the playoffs will improve with wins in their three remaining regular season games against El Toro and Capistrano Valley. Tesoro, who are still undefeated at home in 2012, are currently leading the league with an overall 18-8-1 record. San Clemente and Tesoro are currently playing good baseball, and their first-class programs are second to none under the leadership of Coaches Gellatly and Brail. Should both teams qualify for CIF Southern Section playoff berths, they should not be discounted as they will be not give up easily. We wish the squads continued success now and in the future.