Colter Nisbet’s homer over the left-center field fence was the jolt a slumping Dos Pueblos baseball team needed on Friday in its important Channel League baseball game at Scott O’Leary Field.
Nisbet’s fifth-inning, two-out blast broke 0-0 game, ended a 23-inning scoreless drought and sparked the Chargers to a 4-2 victory, snapping a four-game league losing streak.
“It was like a nice sigh of relief,” starting and winning pitcher Darby Naughton said of Nisbet’s solo shot. “It was like a little breathing room because we’d gone so long without a run. It felt like a lot more than just a home run. It’s awesome it happened for him personally and also it was great for our team momentum-wise.”
DP coach George Hedricks said, “It helped me to breathe again. It was nice to be on the board. It took the pressure off the guys behind him, too.”
Dos Pueblos improved to 14-8-1 overall and 3-4-1 in league play. Santa Barbara is 7-13, 4-4.
Nisbet, who on Thursday signed a letter of intent with Trinity University of San Antonio, Texas, said he was just glad to help the team win.
“It definitely helped the team out and sparked them up a little bit,” he said. “I don’t try to focus on hitting home runs. I just try to focus on helping the team out. One guy can’t win the game by himself, so it was definitely a team effort.”
He said he wasn’t sure it was a homer when he hit it because Santa Barbara’s speedy center field Joe Firestone had run down an earlier fly ball in left center and was chasing after Nisbet’s ball.
“That’s what I was worried about. I know he can fly,” he said of Firestone. “I thought he might have a chance to get to it, so I took off running, hoping maybe for a double.”
On the scoreless streak, Nisbet said: “That was rough. I’m glad we’re past it.”
The Chargers followed Nisbet’s homer with two more runs in the inning off Santa Barbara starter Bijan Palme. Kevin Barker singled to left, went to second on a wild pitch and came home on a single to right by designated hitter Evan Kling. Kling stole second and scored on double by Isaac Coffey for a 3-0 lead.
Dos Pueblos made it 4-0 in the sixth. Josh Feldhaus led off with a single, pinch runner Jed Donelon moved to second on a sacrifice by Wyatt Boyle, advanced to third on an error and scored on a fielder’s choice by Davey Demeter.
“It’s huge momentum because we finally got the monkey off our back in a way and we’re able to go through and not worry about getting one run,” Naughton said of the four runs. “We can go up there and hit now. It’s not just about, ‘We got to get one run and we got to get it out of the way.’ It’s more about just going up there and playing.”
Naughton struggled with his control early in the game, as Santa Barbara put two runners on in the first and second innings. But he came up with big pitches in the clutch to keep the Dons off the scoreboard.
“It’s so hard for (your) pitcher,” Santa Barbara coach Donny Warrecker said. “You’re on the razor’s edge when we continually get guys in scoring position and no one can clutch-up and cash them in. That’s a really big issue for us. We can’t get a clutch hit whatsoever.
“I felt that (Naughton) was hittable,” Warrecker added. “He didn’t have very good command of his fastball and off-speed (pitch) and that’s when you need to jump on a pitcher. He’s a four-year veteran on varsity and he figured it out and started to mix and match a lot better. If you don’t get to a pitcher like that early, you’re letting your opportunities slip by.”
Naughton praised the defense behind him. Barker made a spectacular play on Santa Barbara’s first batter, diving to snare Zach Jensen’s harder grounder and throwing him out. In the fourth, catcher Josh Feldhaus nailed a baserunner at third after retrieving a wild pitch.
“To start the game off with a diving play,” Hedricks said, “you immediately put your pitcher at ease: ‘OK, the guys behind me got my back.’ And, it fired up the dugout.”
Santa Barbara avoided the shutout, scoring both its runs in the seventh inning. Logan Foy and Jensen were hit by pitches and Tommy Holguin hit a sinking liner to right field. DP’s Martinez tried to make a diving catch but the ball fell to the ground and rolled to the fence. Foy and Jensen scored and Holguin tried to stretch the hit into a triple. Martinez recovered the ball at the fence and fired to cutoff man Demeter, who threw a strike to third baseman Barker. He tagged out Holguin to end the game.
“You never want to make the third out at third. It’s a baseball no-no. He’s just trying to do too much,” said Warrecker.