Senior Nico Martinez pitched six solid innings and Mason Boelter survived a bases-loaded situation in the seventh on Friday as Dos Pueblos High edged Santa Barbara 4-3 in a Channel League baseball opener at Eddie Mathews Field.
The Chargers took a 4-1 lead into the bottom of the seventh and Boelter took the mound. With one out, Nick Oakley reached on an infield single and Frank Gamberdella followed with another infield single. First baseman JJ Frausto fielded Gamberdella’s grounder and looked toward second, then threw to Boelter covering first too late.
Derek True, the Dons’ starting pitcher who tossed the first five innings, walked to load the bases. Nick Dallow, who went 2-4, hit a grounder to third that Luke Roberts couldn’t handle, allowing pinch-runner Jackson Hamilton to score. Anthony Firestone hit a sacrifice fly to center, cutting the deficit to 4-3.
Boelter got Jordan Harris to look at strike three to earn the save.
“When you pit someone like Nico against Derek True, you know it’s going to be a battle,” said DP coach George Hedricks. “I thought Nico did a really good job. He showed why he’s been on the varsity for four years. I feel more confident with a guy like him on the mound.”
Martinez got out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam by striking out the side in the second inning.
The Chargers (3-1-1, 1-0) loaded the bases in the fourth on a double by Evan Steinberger, a walk and a hit batter. Steinberger scored on a groundout to first and designated hitter Conner Gleissner delivered a clutch two-out, two-run single to left to make it 3-0.
Martinez held the Dons (1-3, 0-1) to one unearned run on three hits in six innings. He struck out eight and walked three.
“It’s not the first time I’ve faced tough situations, especially since this is my fourth year on the varsity,” said Martinez. “I’ve gotten used to it. We knew it would be a close game and it’s always a dogfight when we play Santa Barbara.”
Martinez said he got some good advice from assistant coach Jimmy Brakka before the game and that helped him when the Dons loaded the bases in the second.
“Coach Jimmy told me to go pitch-by-pitch no matter what and I had his voice in my head,” said Martinez.
The Dons got on the board in the fifth when Oakley reached on an error and pinch-runner Oliver Vallejo was safe at second when the shortstop dropped a potential double-play ball. Vallejo went to third on a walk and scored on Dallow’s fielder’s choice grounder to third.
The Chargers made it 4-1 in the top of the seventh with a two-out rally. Reliever Ty Montgomery walked the bases loaded and pinch-runner Udy Loza scored on a passed ball.
The Dons managed five hits and the Chargers had three, including two doubles. All of Santa Barbara’s runs were unearned, and they stranded nine runners. The Chargers left seven on-base.
“It’s early in the season,” said first-year Dons coach Steve Schuck. “The thing that killed us was leaving runners in scoring position. You load the bases and strike out three times, what are you going to do? If you put one or two across, it’s a whole different ball game.
“What I did like was how we competed to the very end. If you can get to the last inning with the winning run at the plate, that’s all you can ask for.”
True gave up three runs on two hits in five innings with four strikeouts, two walks and a hit batter.
“I think he overthrew a few balls and left ’em up,” said Schuck. “His slider didn’t look like it had much bite. I think he’s just getting into his arm right now. It’s early in the season and he’s going to look completely different in a month.”
The Chargers are playing five games in five days this week. They’ll host Righetti in a doubleheader on Saturday at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
The Dons will play a Channel League game at Santa Ynez on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m.