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Santa Barbara Scores in 7th, Beats San Marcos, 1-0

Linus Holmberg delivers clutch two-out hit to score Bijan Palme for winning run

Alex Chicote of Santa Barbara allowed San Marcos only two hits in five shutout innings. Click to view larger
Alex Chicote of Santa Barbara allowed San Marcos only two hits in five shutout innings.  (JC Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

The last time Santa Barbara High’s Alex Chicote pitched at San Marcos he threw a shutout in the 2016 regular-season finale that put the Dons in the CIF-Southern Section playoffs.

The senior left-hander came up big again at Joe Mueller Field on Tuesday to keep his team in the playoff hunt. He didn’t get the win but he baffled the Royals on two hits through a scoreless five innings, picked a runner off second base, walked one and stuck out five.

The Dons scratched a run off San Marcos starter Mason Metcalfe in the seventh and survived some scary moments to escape with a 1-0 victory.

Santa Barbara is now 2-3 in league and 5-12 overall. San Marcos, which suffered its first league loss, is 3-1 and 13-4.

“It was do-or-die, it really was,” Santa Barbara coach Donny Warrecker said of the importance of winning the game. “I hate to say that, but if we had lost that game our playoff picture was going to be extremely slim. Monster, monster game.

“We just got a great outing from Alex. I swear we give him hardly any run support whatsoever, the poor guy. He gets the no decision.”

He's been tough on the Royals.

Louie Shalhoob of San Marcos safely steals second as the ball gets away from Santa Barbara shortstop Tommy Holguin. Click to view larger
Louie Shalhoob of San Marcos safely steals second as the ball gets away from Santa Barbara shortstop Tommy Holguin. (JC Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

In his last three appearances against San Marcos, Chicote has thrown 17 shutout innings -- seven in last year's win, five in a 1-0 loss earlier this year and five on Tuesday.

“He’s tough to get a lot of bat on (the ball),” said San Marcos coach Jacob Pepper of Chicote, who has been accepted to Cal. “We were lucky to get to the reserve pitcher, but we can’t capitalize on getting a guy to second and trying to move him to home. 

"When the opportunities are so few, you have to do the best you can with them.”

Warrecker said Chicote’s outing was very similar to last year’s 4-0 win at San Marcos.

“Tell you the truth, the view from the dugout was like last year’s performance. He got through the fifth but we could tell he was fatiguing, he wasn’t as sharp. He wasn’t finishing his breaking ball and his fastball was away.”

Asked about pitching so well at San Marcos, Chicote said: I think it’s just the rivalry high school. I know lot of guys on the team and I know a lot of people at this school. It feels good to come out here and throw the hardest five innings I can.”

He credited the play of the defense behind him. “We had some great reads in the outfield — a great diving play by Caleb (Norton) in right field (in the second inning)— to help us out and give us the best chance to win.”

It took a clutch hit by No. 9 hitter Linus Holmberg for the Dons to score their run. Bijan Palme reached base on an infield error, went to second on a wild pitch and was sacrificed to third by Grant Feldman. The Dons failed to execute a squeeze play as the bunt attempt went foul, and Metcalfe struck out the batter for the second out. Holmberg, a transfer student from Sweden, lashed a single to center to score Feldman.

“It was a fastball inside,” said Holmberg of the pitch.

“That was perfect. We needed that," Chicote said of Holmberg's hit. "A couple of times early in in the year we weren’t able too come up with that. But this time we came through in the clutch.” 

Warrecker was relieved Holmberg came through after the missed squeeze play.

“I was extremely disappointed with the squeeze play… so if Linus Holmberg didn’t get that hit I told the team after the game that I was going to fire my helmet and shatter it into a million pieces because it seems like we haven’t been able to figure out these one-run ballgames. So for him to come up with that hit was monster. I think it was only his fifth hit of the year — as big of a fifth hit of the season you could have.”

It was only the fourth hit allowed by Metcalfe, who went the distance for San Marcos, striking out five and walking three.

“Hat’s off to Santa Barbara, they came through with a clutch hit from the No. 9 hitter," Pepper said. "That’s huge, man. That’s the way baseball goes, somebody is going to take care of an opportunity.

"The pitching has been great on both sides, so far, and we'll look forward to Friday (at Santa Barbara)."

San Marcos had scoring chances in the sixth and seventh against Santa Barbara reliever Tim Piozet. But the Royals stranded Louie Shalhoob  in the sixth and Diego Jasso and Vince Vogel were left at second and first in the seventh. 

Piozet got the final out by inducing a grounder to third baseman Holmberg, who made the play to first base, setting off a Dons celebration and tightened the Channel League.

The teams meet against on Friday at Santa Barbara's Eddie Mathews Field.

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