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San Marcos Makes the Big Plays to Knock Off Dos Pueblos, 3-1

Royals go into spring break with a 3-0 record in Channel League and an 10-1 overall mark

San Marcos coach Jacob Pepper congratulates starting pitcher Mason Metcalfe after beating Dos Pueblos. Metcalfe went six innings in a 3-1 win. Click to view larger
San Marcos coach Jacob Pepper congratulates starting pitcher Mason Metcalfe after beating Dos Pueblos. Metcalfe went six innings in a 3-1 win. (JC Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

San Marcos made all the right plays to beat defending champion Dos Pueblos, 3-1, in a Channel League baseball game on Friday at Joe Mueller Field.

One of the biggest plays came on defense. In the fourth inning and the score tied 1-1, left fielder Erik Larson fielded a single by DP’s Dylan Kelley and threw a one-hopper to catcher Kyle Gonzalez, who tagged out Colter Nisbet for the final out of the inning. 

“That was an awesome play by Erik Larson,” Gonzalez said. “He’s been real clutch for us lately, making diving catches, throwing runners out at home. I knew he had him.”

Gonzalez said he called for shortstop Ryan Guardino to cut off the throw, but the San Jose State-bound Guardino wisely let it go.

“You just have to have some instincts there as a cutout man,” San Marcos coach Jacob Pepper said. “I think our catcher called for a relay but the ball was a little bit up. And for Kyle to hang on to that ball…”

“They saved me big time,” San Marcos starting pitcher Mason Metcalfe said of his outfielders. “They’re my wall back there.”

Pepper said the play turned the game around.

“I think it was a momentum changer because that shut them down with the last out and we got our two runs that next half inning. It’s a game of momentum. We lost a little momentum when they tied it up and we were able to battle back as we have all season.”

The Royals go into spring break with a 3-0 record in Channel League and a 10-1 overall mark. Dos Pueblos is 2-1-1 and 7-3-1.

San Marcos gave Metcalfe a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth. Guardino singled to center, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a passed ball. Matt Neal and Josh Kang drew walks and Thomas Hantgin was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Jack Winterbauer hit a fly ball to left that was dropped, allowing Neal to score. The Chargers managed to get a force out at second base and starter Darby Naughton struck out the next batter to end the inning.

“We didn’t execute very well today,” said Dos Pueblos coach George Hedricks. “I thought we did a good job getting runners on base all game, even in the last inning. You feel pretty good when you got first and second, no outs multiple times a game — you’re going to score runs. For whatever reason, we didn’t execute today.”

The mistakes spoiled a two-hit performance by Naughton

“I’m never nervous when Darby is on the mound, he’s a gamer. That's why he’s out there. You always know he’s one pitch away from getting out of an inning,” said Hedricks. 

San Marcos got a run off Naughton in the first inning. Gonzalez singled home Louie Shalhoob, who reached first on an error and advanced to second on a bunt by Vince Vogel.

Gonzalez played a huge role in the Royals’ win. In addition to his RBI and tag-out at the plate, he threw out a DP runner trying to steal second on a busted hit-and-run play in the first inning.

“He’s our leader by example,” Pepper said of his senior catcher. “He’s really stayed hot this year everywhere. His hitting has continued to get better; he’s taking a great approach to make sure he’s not flying out and doing what we’re asking him to do. And, behind the dish, it’s so relaxing to me to have someone back there who can take care of the game and manage the game for us, basically. It’s been great to have him for four years.”

Dos Pueblos tied the score in the third inning. Kelley hit an opposite-field single and went to third on Evan Kling’s one-out double to the right-center field fence. A wild pickoff attempt to second base allowed Kelley to score. Metcalfe shook off the mistake and got the next two batters on a strikeout and fly out to right field.

“It doesn’t really matter who we have on the hill right now. We seem to putting the ball in the zone and keeping hitters off balance. It’s fun to see it keep happening,” said Pepper of Metcalfe.

Metcalfe pitched into the seventh before being lifted after walking Davy Demeter and giving up a single to Kelley, his third hit of the game. Lefty Ian Churchill retired the next three batters, getting a huge assist on a diving catch by center fielder Louie Shalhoob.

“We got athletes out there, we got speed out there, and that’s why we have them out there. We know they’re going to make plays,” said Pepper of his outfielders.

While it was a big win over a crosstown rival, Pepper said his team is keeping an even keel.

“A little bit at a time,” he said. “These guys know it, too. They’re not thinking we’re the greatest right now. They want to keep working hard, keep getting better, so when it comes down to it, we keep winning games like this.”

Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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