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Tuesday, February 19 , 2019, 9:44 am | Fair 52º

Sports: A Noozhawk Partnership with Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table, The Lab, and American Riviera Bank

Ryan Guardino Races Home to Lift San Marcos Over Santa Barbara

For Ryan Guardino and the San Marcos baseball team, an “Oh, no!” moment turned into a “Oh, yah!” finish against crosstown rival Santa Barbara.

In a scoreless game in the sixth inning, Guardino raced around third base on Josh Kang’s grounder deep into the hole at shortstop. As Dons shortstop Tommy Holguin smothered the ball, Guardino paused nearly halfway down the line, looked at Holguin and bolted for home. Holguin fired the ball to catcher Samsun Keithley but Guardino avoided the tag, made a wide head-first slide and touched the plate with left hand to score.

The heart-stopping play lifted San Marcos to a 1-0 victory in a Channel League rain make-up game on Monday at Joe Mueller Field.

It was the Royals’ first win over the Dons in a long time and leaves them with a 2-1 record in league and 10-4 overall. Santa Barbara is 2-2, 6-5.

Guardino said he had no doubts about going home after Kang's hit.

“I thought it went through and my coach thought it went through, too,” he said.

But when Guardino saw Holguin with the ball, he thought, “Oh, no" and hesitated before sprinting for home. I saw a little opening and dove around and went for the hand on the plate.”

“With two outs there, we’re pretty much trying to score on anything that’s moving through the infield,” said San Marcos coach Jacob Pepper. “That was a tough play. I was kind of waving him in there and holding him up. I kind of lucked out. We just did enough to get that run across. Thinking about it again, I probably should have just sent him because I think that shortstop bobbled it just a bit and it would have been a tough play.”

Santa Barbara coach Donny Warrecker said Holguin made a nice play to keep the ball in the infield.

“Great play by Tommy to knock it down,” he said. “We talk about that with two outs you want to knock the ball down and keep it in the infield. Tough call on the run-down, but if you don’t score any runs that little thing ends up being the difference in the ball game.”

Asked about the play, winning pitcher Mason Metcalfe said, “Oh, my God, my heart stopped. (Ryan’s) probably one of the fastest guys on the team. I knew he could get out of it. The way he did it was spectacular.”

Mason Metcalfe pitched six shutout innings to earn the victory for San Marcos. Click to view larger
Mason Metcalfe pitched six shutout innings to earn the victory for San Marcos. (Javier Delarosa / Noozhawk photo)

Guardino also made a huge defensive play to keep the game scoreless in the fifth innng.  With one out and the bases loaded, he put himself in the right position to field a ground ball and start a 6-4-3 double play.

“I’m just glad my defense had my back this game,” said Metcalfe. “I dug myself a hole but they were able to dig me out. That was great.”

Santa Barbara put runners in scoring position in five innings but couldn’t come up with the big hit against Metcalfe.

“Eight runners left on base is why we didn’t win,” Warrecker said. “We had plenty of opportunities early in the game. If you don’t cash in those runs, it makes it a really, really narrow margin, always just walking a tight rope.”

The lack of a game-breaking hit spoiled a fine pitching performance by left-hander Alex Chicote.  He allowed two hits, struck out six and didn’t walk a batter in five innings.

“We’re really happy with Alex Chicote’s outing,”Warrecker said. “He ran out of gas in his last outing in Arizona. Today was very promising. It’s a tough one for him not coming with a W.

Chicote was lifted after throwing close to 90 pitches Bijan Palme came in and suffered the loss.

Pepper gave kudos to Chicote. “Credit to their pitcher. He wasn’t throwing the ball over the plate at all, just keeping it on the edges. He had a tough sinker and a tough slider to work with below the bat.”

Metcalfe was solid for San Marcos. He threw six innings, giving up five hits and three walks while striking out three. Blake Katsev pitched the seventh to earn the save.

“Mason threw strikes,” Guardino said. “It was great because he gave up a ton of ground balls and didn’t give up any powerful hits to any of their players.”

Said Pepper: “Mason has been real gritty for us this year. He doesn’t get flustered at all.”

Metcalfe and the Royals got a huge break in the fifth when right fielder Thomas Hantgin couldn’t come up with long fly in foul territory. The Dons had Holguin at third base at the time and he could have tagged and scored the first run if the ball was caught.

“If he had caught that, it would have been a completely different game,” said Guardino.

“That’s one of those baseball gods plays right there,” Pepper said. “We were proud of him for not making that play. I was happy to see that (ball) hit the ground.”

The Royals then turned the double play.

“I was ready for that. I was imaging it in my head right before it happened,” Guardino said. “I thought, ‘This is going to get us out of it.’”

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