The first crosstown baseball game of the season brought out the best in senior starting pitchers Cole Schoenwetter of San Marcos and Kyle Spink of Dos Pueblos
But it was a sophomore who stole the show in a dramatic finish before a big crowd at Scott O’Leary field.
Xander Hajda belted a two-run homer over the left-field fence off Schoenwetter with one out in the bottom of the seventh, lifting Dos Pueblos to a 3-2 victory and handing San Marcos its first loss in Channel League play.
Dos Pueblos is now 3-2 in league (4-8 overall) while San Marcos is 4-1 (6-4). The teams meet again Saturday at San Marcos at 3:30 p.m.
Hajda, who had struck out in his previous two at-bats against the fireball-throwing Schoenwetter, said he made adjustments for the third confrontation.
“It was middle-middle, and I’d seen them all game,” he said of the fastball he hit. “I just adjusted getting shorter to the ball and ran into one.”
Hajda said the Chargers were confident they could come back from a 2-0 deficit against the elite pitcher.
“We were down but we were never out. We always believed. After the first guy got on, we knew we had a rally going,” he said.
The rally started with Ryder Kendall coming off the bench and drawing a leadoff walk.
“That was a big AB right there to lead it off,” said Dos Pueblos coach George Hedricks. “I asked him, ‘Do you want to bat against that guy?’ And he said, ‘Yeah coach, put me in.’ And he ends up working a walk for us.”
Joe Talarico followed with a slow bouncer behind that mound that was fielded by the shortstop, but the throw was low and got away from the first baseman. Ryder advanced to third base.
“That was a tough play for anybody, a slow roller on ground that is really soft right now,” said Hedricks. “Obviously, it deadened the ball a little bit. He made a great effort on the play. It just went our way.”
Jesse Di Maggio hit into a force play at second base which allowed Ryder to score and make it a 2-1 game. Noah Severson pinch-ran for Di Maggio.
Hajda then came up and finished the game with a no-doubt blast over the left-field fence.
Hedricks had full confidence his No. 6 hitter would deliver.
“You got him in the middle of the order of a reason,” he said. “Those are the guys that got the thumbs up. Xander has swung the bat all year, and he’s only a sophomore. You could tell even in his other ABs, even though he hadn’t got hits, that his swings were good. He was competitive at the plate, he didn’t look intimidated against obviously a very good pitcher who kept us at bay all game long.”
Schoenwetter was brilliant through six innings. He struck out 13, allowed only one hit and didn’t walk a batter. He was still throwing in the 90s in the seventh.
“Cole did the same thing against us last year,” Hedricks recalled. “When he pitches against us, like he should against a rival team, he’s just locked in. And he was locked in today.
“We knew it was going to be tough to get anybody on and we had to make it count when we did.”
Schoenwetter allowed three runs on two hits and two walks in his first complete-game outing of the season.
“I thought Cole was fantastic all day,” said San Marcos coach Wes Ghan Gibson. “He’s our guy. He’s our captain, he’s our leader and he did everything that we asked him to do today.
“There was no way I was taking the ball out of his hand. If we’re going to go down, and that’s what we talk about all the time, that’s the way we’re going to go down.
“I tip my cap (to DP). The beautiful thing is we get to play tomorrow.”
Schoenwetter was locked in a good pitching duel with DP starter Kyle Spink. The Chargers’ left-hander shut out San Marcos through five innings, allowing three hits and three walks.
“I tip my cap to Kyle Spink, he did awesome. “I can’t say enough good things about him,” said Ghan Gibson
Hedricks said Spink “has really been our go-to pitcher all year long. He had all three pitches working, and his change-up really kept them at bay.”
Owen Simandle relieved Spink and struck out the first batter before San Marcos struck with back-to-back singles from Mason Pettingill and Patrick Kelly. An error at third base allowed Pettingill to break the scoreless tie.
After Caden Hodina drew a walk, Owen Estabrook singled to center to drive in Kelly for a 2-0 lead.
The submarine-throwing Simandle got a pop-out and a strikeout to end the inning.
Sasha Holmes pitched the seventh for DP and gave up a leadoff hit to Brendan Cekada. But center fielder Zach Gesswein threw him out at second base, with shortstop Talarico making the tag.
Holmes retired the next two hitters on a strikeout and a grounder to second base, setting the stage for the Chargers’ dramatic finish.
Hedricks hopes Friday’s big win will serve as a catalyst for his team for the remainder of the season.
“We know we stole one,” he said. “We want to go out tomorrow and try to win the series, and that hopefully pushes us into a big week against Santa Barbara.
“When you play San Marcos and Santa Barbara, it doesn’t matter the record. It’s going to be an intense game. It’s going to be a nobody-breathing-type of game. And today certainly was no different.
“We’re certainly happy to be on the winning side of it.”